Our view: Do as we say, not as we do
Planning commissioners have endorsed a variance that will postpone construction of a sidewalk at the proposed new Igloo
City Council should follow its own rules and not postpone construction of the sidewalk
One of the most effective means of leadership is setting a good example.
That’s why we were somewhat concerned when we learned last week that the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission had, on a 4-1 vote, recommended City Council approve a proposal to build a new childcare facility near Howelsen Ice Arena to replace the aged and deteriorating Igloo.
It is not Planning Commission’s endorsement of the new Igloo project that concerns us; rather, it is the fact that commissioners also sanctioned a variance city planners are seeking to delay construction of the new facility’s sidewalk until 2017.
Before Planning Commission voted on the proposal, Anne Small, the city’s director of general services, told commissioners the sidewalk variance was needed because this year’s budget does not include sidewalk construction. Further, there are plans to pave the parking lot at nearby Brent Romick Rodeo Arena next year, and for that reason, Small added, it would be best to wait until then so the sidewalk can be constructed to mesh with the yet-to-be designed paving project.
In the interim, the city has proposed building a soft-surface trail to serve the new facility until the sidewalk can be added next year.
It is interesting to note that Rich Levy, the lone commissioner to vote against the project, did so due to the sidewalk variance. Levy felt delaying construction of the sidewalk would present a safety hazard in the winter, as a temporary soft surface would be more difficult to clear of snow. He further predicted children making their way to the new Igloo might, at times, be forced to walk in the street, concluding, “That’s not what I consider to be a safe pedestrian environment.”
But beyond the safety concerns, we feel the city granting itself a variance in this instance would establish a poor precedent and might cast the city in an unfavorable light with private developers who, historically, have not been granted such consideration.
We later learned that Bob Keenan, senior planner for the city, had addressed the same concern with commissioners, assuring them a similar variance request from a private developer would be approved by the city, and while we don’t question Keenan’s veracity, we still feel the city’s approval of such a variance for itself would send a troubling message, one that might easily be interpreted as, “Do as we say, not as we do.”
For these reason, we encourage City Council to play by its own rules and find a way to include the sidewalk in the overall construction plan. We understand budgetary concerns, but historically, the city has approved out-of-budget expenditures in July as summer sales tax revenues begin to come in. We think it should consider doing so in this instance.
To do otherwise, in our view, sends a message City Council really doesn’t want the public to read.
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