Community members push for — and against — an annexation ballot measure at Steamboat city council town hall
January 17, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — About 50 people turned out for the second of two town halls Steamboat Springs City Council hosted to discuss the annexation of 190 acres west of current city limits.
Brynn Grey Partners, the developer seeking the annexation, plans to build 450 homes during the next 16 to 20 years.
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City Council has been negotiating through a possible annexation with Brynn Grey since 2016.
The ordinance is scheduled to go before council for a fourth time Tuesday, Jan. 22. If approved on first reading, the annexation would have to go before council for final approval at second reading.
Most community members used the town hall as an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the annexation. Fourteen people commented in favor of annexation, and five people spoke in opposition to it. Based on their comments, it was unclear how the remaining five people who spoke felt towards the concept.
About 45 people came to the first town hall held Saturday.
The question of whether City Council should send the measure to a ballot emerged as a theme of the evening.
When Council President Jason Lacy asked the audience for a show of hands, more people lifted their hands in favor of a council vote instead of a ballot measure.
After second reading, voters could petition to hold a referendum by gathering 10 percent of the registered electorate as of the last municipal election, or about 1,078 signatures, according to council member Scott Ford.
"If those that are passionate want to move this direction, there is an avenue to do it," said Ford.
Those who argued against a ballot measure worried that many people interested in living in the development wouldn't be able to vote in a Steamboat municipal election, as they live in Hayden, Stagecoach, Oak Creek and unincorporated Routt County.
"Do I have concerns about this? Yeah. Do I have questions about it? Yeah," said Roger Ashton, who spoke in public comment. "But the bottom line is, I believe in representative government and I trust my City Council. I trust the work that you have done, and I would encourage you not to put it to a vote of the people because the community has not put the time into this that you have."
Those in favor of referring annexation to a ballot question said, because it impacts the community, it should go before the community.
"I think this particular project should go to a vote to the public," said Richard Denney, who spoke in public comment. He said he believed putting it to a vote would flesh out additional information and draw more concessions from Brynn Grey.
Other topics community members questioned included availability of water for the development and the financial impact to the city should the development not be built out.
"Right now, we're literally just changing the city limits … That doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that the development plan is going to automatically be approved or the next step after that, the preliminary plat, where they actually plat the lots," said Lacy. "They have to meet all the criteria for all those processes later on."
City water resources manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said the city doesn't make a commitment to meet additional demands without ensuring that water supply, including stored water and water rights, are in place.
Council member Lisel Petis responded to the question about financial risk.
"The developer has to build the roads," she said. "There is not any city money going into building their own roads. They also then have to put in the infrastructure. They're paying all the tap fees up front."
Petis explained that payments into two new city funds, the water firming fund and transit firming fund, could be delayed if the developer does not construct homes in the neighborhood. These funds pay for maintenance of water and roads in the neighborhood, and without homes built, people would not be living there and using this infrastructure, she said.
Some questioned the affordability of the homes. Deed restricted homes in the development require primary residency in Routt County and bans short term rental of the homes, but it does not include an income restriction. Others argued that the homes were attainable, not affordable.
Those interested can contact City Council members with comments on the annexation proposal by visiting steamboatsprings.net. To see a video of City Council's annexation town halls, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.