County commissioner districts expected to remain similar to current layout
Districts of the Routt County Board of Commissioners will remain very similar to how they are now, with one smaller area consisting mostly of Steamboat Springs and two larger ones that fill out the rest of the county.
District 1 will still largely make up South Routt County, including parts of Steamboat’s city limits that are west of U.S. Highway 40. District 2 will continue to consist of West and North Routt, as well as some western Steamboat communities.
“A commissioner, whether it is in your district or my district or if you’re living in the city of Steamboat Springs, you need a majority of all the people to vote for you,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan, speaking to Commissioner Tim Redmond.
The districts are not yet official, as commissioners will need to pass a resolution at a public hearing, which is expected sometime in December.
Monday nearly wraps up a weekslong effort to redraw the lines based on newly collected data from the 2020 U.S. Census. County staff came up with two different potential maps: one that mimicked the current map as close as possible at commissioners’ direction and another that tried to balance the land area in each district.
Commissioners clearly favored the first option, but they put out a survey to get feedback from residents, as well. Though just 13 people completed the survey, 10 of them agreed with commissioners that the option closest to the status quo was best.
The districts do not select who will vote in the commissioner election like they do in some larger Front Range counties. Instead, the districts are designed to ensure there is representation from different parts of the county, and everyone votes for every commissioner, regardless of where the voters live in Routt County.
“Everybody has to vote for all three commissioners — I’m comfortable with this,” Redmond said about the first option. “I think this is the best option.”
The largest complaint of option two among survey takers was that each of the commissioners could live in Steamboat, as about a third of the city was in each district.
“In option two, the remote possibility that all three commissioners could live within the city limits of Steamboat is untenable and would give rise to the rural/ranching areas feeling like they do not have a voice,” one survey taker from Steamboat said. “Routt County is not just Steamboat.”
Some feared that three commissioners from Steamboat would cause more rural/urban divide.
“If option two is chosen for our commissioner elections, it would be a blatant and gross decision to silence every rural constituent in the county,” another survey taker from District 1 said.
Under the districts commissioners plan to move forward with, each commissioner could still come from within Steamboat’s city limits, though that typically has not happened.
They briefly discussed a theoretical map that ensured one district did not have any part of Steamboat in it, but that would likely lead to two commissioners from the city.
“There are 1,000 ways to skin this cat,” said Emy Keeling, GIS manager for Routt County.
The changes from the current map were due to population increases in Steamboat and to simplify some of the legal descriptions to use roads rather than other features like creeks, Keeling said.
Commissioners did not vote but said they planned to approve option one.
“It is hard to think of a compelling reason to do something different,” Corrigan said.
Keeling said she would return to the board in December with the final legal descriptions for the districts for commissioners’ approval.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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