Our View: Vote ‘yes’ to annex West Steamboat Neighborhoods
We consider this week’s editorial to be one of the most important editorials we’ll write all year. The public vote on the annexation of West Steamboat Neighborhoods will shape the way Steamboat grows in the future, and we strongly encourage people to vote “yes” on the proposal.
The agreement, which has already been approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council, was hammered out over a three-year period, and throughout the process, there was ample opportunity for public input, discussion and debate. Those who support the annexation, including us, agree that West Steamboat Neighborhoods will help meet critical housing needs within our community. The council, city staff and other experts worked hard to forge the best deal possible with the developer, and that effort in the form of an annexation agreement deserves a positive vote.
Those who oppose the agreement argue the annexation does not align itself with the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan and does not solve the community’s affordable housing problem. We counter that position by pointing out that West Steamboat Neighborhoods was never intended to be an affordable housing project. It is aimed at providing attainable housing for locals through the construction of a combination of deed-restricted housing units and market-rate homes that will range in price from $300,000 to the $700,000s.
We would also note that the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan is not law. It was last updated in 2006 and serves as a guiding document for city leaders. The plan does identify West Steamboat as the area where city growth should occur, and the property Brynn Grey Partners is seeking to develop is the only available, large parcel located in the city’s designated urban growth boundary.
The plan also envisions a growth strategy that seeks to maintain Steamboat’s unique character, and we believe West Steamboat Neighborhoods encapsulates that vision, helping to ensure our community remains a place where local workers can live and thrive.
Voters also should not confuse West Steamboat Neighborhoods with the ill-fated Steamboat 700 project. Steamboat 700 was poorly timed and much too large. West Steamboat Neighborhoods is the right size — only a third of the size of Steamboat 700. It will not flood the market with new homes. Instead, developers plan to build an average of 26 homes a year for the next 16 to 20 years.
Brynn Grey is a respected, experienced developer with over 30 years of experience building neighborhoods in mountain communities. Most notably, they’ve developed successful housing developments in Frisco and Breckenridge that are providing valuable locals housing for those communities.
The annexation agreement City Council approved with Brynn Grey is revenue-neutral, according to a fiscal impact study conducted by an independent third-party consultant, and when the development is fully built out, Brynn Grey will have paid the city a total of $20.6 million to offset any costs the city might incur because of the development. West Steamboat Neighborhoods will deliver 108 for-sale, deed-restricted housing units, and 44% of the development will be dedicated to parks and open space — two characteristics of the project that are important to maintaining Steamboat’s community character.
At issue: City residents will have the opportunity to vote on an annexation proposal during a June 25 special election.
Our view: Voters should vote “yes” on the annexation, which would provide valuable locals housing and ensure Steamboat maintains its community character.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Robin Stone, community representative
- Steve Hofman, community representative
A single development will not fix all of Steamboat’s housing problems, but West Steamboat Neighborhoods will provide the community with a range of housing options, particularly in the important area of entry-level and move-up housing. As Jon Quinn said when speaking to the Editorial Board on behalf of the Yes to Locals Housing Committee, “a ‘no’ vote means no annexation for another 10 years, or ever,” and we believe that to be true.
If voters defeat the annexation proposal, they’re basically shutting the doors on growth, and it’s ludicrous to think another developer will come forward anytime soon to help Steamboat create valuable housing for those who want to live and work here. To quote Quinn again, “any developer with the capacity and resources to tackle a project of this scale can also measure risk and reward and would be smart to regard the community’s intentions with great skepticism if it were to vote down a second annexation.”
West Steamboat Neighborhoods is not a perfect solution to all of our housing woes, but in this case, perfect is the enemy of good. If this ballot measure does not pass, we predict there will be no significant workforce housing projects undertaken in Steamboat — outside of Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s low-income housing — for a generation.
A “yes” vote signals that Steamboat cares about its working class, its families, its young professionals, its retirees looking to downsize. We believe West Steamboat Neighborhoods will give people an opportunity to live where they work, which should be important to all of us if we are to maintain the community character that makes Steamboat such a special place.
City residents received their ballots in the mail on Monday, and we encourage voters to vote “yes” and return them well in advance of election day on Tuesday, June 25. And if you seek additional information about the ballot issue, visit steamboatpilot.com/news/annexation/.
Editor’s note: Editorial Board member Robin Stone was not present for this editorial discussion and decision.
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