Bob Enever: People have right to decide how big the city should be
December 13, 2018
Steamboat Springs City Council has studied the plans of Brynn Grey and negotiated with them for 2 1/2 years, and they are close to approving an ordinance representing the best deal they could get. After spending hundreds of hours of their own volunteer time studying and negotiating, council members would not be human if they had not become somewhat morally invested in the project.
Landowners have the right to develop their land, subject to zoning laws, building codes and availability of water, so the City Council has to entertain every proposal that is made to them and may not turn them down without good reason. There is an acute shortage of housing, employees are scarcer than hen’s teeth, development creates jobs, so the council was subject to huge pressures to approve this big development.
Council is not in a position to decide how big the city should be and cannot impose limits on growth because people have a right to develop their land. So we, the people, have to decide how big we want our city to be.
The people have the right to overturn a city ordinance by referendum, which would involve gathering petitions and holding an election. In the case of Steamboat 700, this turned a legitimate concern about growth by many of us into a confrontation with the City Council. The council felt compelled to defend the ordinance on which it had spent so much time and the city's treasure, and the city councilors felt very badly when it was defeated.
It does not have to be that way. Section 8.7 of the City Charter reads: "The Council on its own motion, shall have the power to submit at a regular or special election any proposed ordinance or any question to a vote of the qualified electors."
The council can take a step back from its negotiations, recognize that it was legally compelled to spend the time with Brynn Grey to get the best deal it could for the people of Steamboat Springs but also recognize that the people have the right to decide the very different question of how big they want their city to be.
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So I urge the City Council to submit the ordinance approving the Brynn Grey proposal to a vote of the people before passing it.