Candidates say growth is top of mind for voters in County Commissioner race
Former Steamboat council members work to appeal to voters beyond county seat
Both candidates vying for an open Routt County Commissioner seat say they know the Steamboat Springs district they would be elected to represent well.
But while they need to live within District 3, which is entirely within Steamboat’s city limits, voters in all parts of Routt County will decide who they want to join Democrats Tim Corrigan and Tim Redmond at the helm of the county in January.
This has required Republican candidate Kathi Meyer and Democratic candidate Sonja Macys to branch out beyond the county seat.
Both candidates say that growth, and issues like housing and transportation that come with it are top of mind for voters they speak to.
The recently updated Routt County Master Plan directs growth to urban centers — west of Steamboat, within Hayden’s three-mile plan, Stagecoach, and within existing municipalities — a point that both Macys and Meyer said they agree with.
Both candidates said the individual communities should take the lead with residents choosing how much growth is appropriate.
Macys said the county is seeing this, with Yampa not really wanting much growth and Hayden taking the opposite route by investing in ventures like an industrial park near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
“It’s not about stopping growth,” Macys said. “It’s inevitable, it’s going to happen. It’s just making sure that we do it intentionally and thoughtfully and that we don’t sacrifice natural resources, cultural resources and most specifically water.”
Macys said her environmental background, having worked for organizations such as the Audubon Society, Yampatika and the Colorado Division of Water Resources, makes it so she looks at issues through an environmental lens, which she believes will be important when balancing growth with protecting Routt County’s unique environment.
Meyer said she feels there are already opportunities for growth in municipalities outside of Steamboat, and the county should do what it can to support development. One example she gave was a development in Oak Creek that was platted about 15 years ago, but was never fully built out.
There also needs to be a focus on developing all types of housing, Meyer said, not just units that fit a definition of affordable.
“It’s housing of all spectrums, and it’s not just the Steamboat area,” Meyer said. “Allowing (communities like Oak Creek) to grow at the level that the community wants. And then how do we move people around, meaning transportation.”
Meyer touts her experience on the Steamboat Planning Commission, time on the Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board and her work experience in banking and financial management as assets when working to deal with Routt County’s housing woes.
“I’ve spent my career in residential and commercial lending,” Meyer said. “I’ve implemented plans that have helped first-time home buyers, I’ve helped change underwriting standards. These are things that get people into homes and change people’s lives.”
Macys said she believes there needs to be more visioning about what growth looks like, rather than trying to manage it through what she sees as an, at times, flawed planning process.
“I’m, I think, more dynamic in how I see growth and if we have a code that’s broken let’s fix it, let’s not just interpret it,” Macys said. “I know how to do growth without sacrificing what’s important to us.”
Both candidates said they are interested in asking voters about creating a Regional Transportation Authority — an idea that is already being studied locally and has been successful in the Roaring Fork Valley.
But while Macys has a list of creative potential projects, Meyer said she thinks the county should take “baby steps.”
Meyer said one of the first things an RTA could accomplish would be to improve transportation between Oak Creek and Steamboat, potentially having a fleet of smaller vans rather than buses. She also said there needs to be more frequent stops between Craig and Steamboat to move workers around.
“You should scale the transit system to fit the capacity and what is reasonable,” Meyer said.
Macys’ ideas are a bit bigger, including an extended core trail from Stagecoach to Dinosaur, repurposing the existing railway and potentially even a gondola between the base of Steamboat Resort and downtown to alleviate parking and congestion issues. A potential RTA should also include wildlife crossings as part the projects proposed to voters, Macys said.
“Now is think big time, not just fund what we have,” Macys said. “This is like, do incredibly innovative projects that are going to transform the way we look at our community.”
Fiscal discipline versus fiscal conservative
Both candidates say they will closely watch county finances if elected, with Meyer saying she is fiscally conservative and Macys saying she has good fiscal discipline.
Each of them said they agreed with the current trio of commissioners when they gave $1 million to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority for Brown Ranch planning and spent more than $100,000 in support of the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District’s new wastewater treatment plant.
Meyer said the county needs to be planning for when the extraction industry and the tax revenue that it brings tapers off so that the budget is still manageable without raising taxes. Still, that doesn’t mean that Meyer is against extending county services when appropriate.
“I think the county’s role is to provide a social safety net,” Meyer said. “Whether it’s child welfare or other programs, but we shouldn’t be getting in the way of what the United Way or LiftUp (of Routt County) does. We have a robust nonprofit network and we should let the nonprofits do what they do.”
Macys said being fiscally disciplined is how she views all issues and doesn’t feel it should be considered an accomplishment. She emphasized that the solutions to housing and transportation need to be paid for by residents in an equitable way.
“That’s just the filter that I’m going to put everything through,” Macys said. “It’s not an accomplishment or an item, it’s just how you see the world.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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