Broad reactions in wake of Steamboat 700 election
Voters’ denial of annexation spurs celebration, regret across city
March 10, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat 700 supporters and opponents agreed on one thing Tuesday night: Voters' rejection of the annexation means it's time for the city to update its community plan and rethink how to handle growth in coming years.
That process will play out during the months ahead in a long-term, community effort. In the short term Tuesday night, in the wake of Steamboat 700's defeat by more than 20 percent of the 4,253 votes cast, there was plenty of sadness and regret at Rex's American Grill & Bar, where members of the Good For Steamboat committee and other annexation supporters gathered on a March election night in Steamboat Springs. And there was celebration and optimism among members of the Let's Vote committee, which opposed the annexation. They did not have a gathering but toasted the victory nonetheless.
"I am celebrating with a strong dollop of bourbon tonight," e-mailed longtime Steamboat resident Omar Campbell, one of the first to publicly call for a citywide vote on Steamboat 700. "This is a real plebiscite on rampant growth that is going to cause our elected officials and developers to look at their hole-cards a lot closer in the future."
Let's Vote spokesman Tim Rowse, in an e-mail summarizing reactions from the committee, said he hopes local officials closely examine voters' message.
"There are many reasons people voted 'no.' It's important we find out why people voted 'no' and incorporate this into city and county policy," Rowse said. "Going forward, an update to the community area plan is due. The city and county have the opportunity to learn from this vote and engage with the community to chart a course forward."
City Manager Jon Roberts said an update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan is indeed due and is the next major project for planning staff.
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Steamboat 700 supporters said that update could mean starting from scratch. Much of the annexation debate focused on whether Steamboat 700 met the goals of the city's West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, last updated in 2006.
"To me, a 'no' vote on Steamboat 700 is essentially a 'no' vote on the WSSAP," Steamboat 700 consultant and former Yampa Valley Housing Authority staffer Curtis Church said Tuesday at Rex's. "I don't believe a better deal is going to come along."
Third-generation resident Steve Elkins, 62, called voters' denial an "embarrassment for the community."
"They just voted for Steamboat to become Aspen," said Elkins, citing the possibility of growth spreading across the Yampa Valley rather than in a centralized location.
Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mulcahy was calm after the loss.
"This was a defining moment in Steamboat's future," he said.
Mulcahy added that Steamboat 700 LLC will explore several options for the site.
"I'm not going away," he said.
He thanked his supporters earlier Tuesday.
"There's probably thousands of people to thank," he said. "There's been a lot of people who put a lot of time and energy into this — and it's a credit to the community. It's an absolute credit to the community, the citizens taking ownership of what happens in the future — you don't see a lot of that in some communities."
New plan, new director
Tom Leeson, the city's director of planning and community development, leaves his position April 1 to attend the University of Maryland and work toward a master's degree.
Roberts said the city has received more than 90 applications for Leeson's position and interviews will start next week.
Steamboat Springs City Council President Cari Hermacinski said Leeson's replacement will need experience with infill, or growth within city limits.
Let's Vote members cited infill as one of several growth alternatives to annexation.
A public discussion about infill is Thursday when the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission has a public work session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. City planner Jason Peasley said the topic is changes to zoning regulations to allow more density in the city's core, particularly along U.S. Highway 40.