Preserving open space, planning for energy transition are top priorities for county commissioner seeking re-election
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Routt County commissioner is vying for his third term in office.
Tim Corrigan, a Democrat who represents South Routt, announced his re-election Tuesday, Feb. 18. In a letter, Corrigan said, if elected, he would focus his next term on three main themes. Those include preserving the rural integrity of Routt County, leveraging partnerships and planning for the future.
As a South Routt resident for 39 years, Corrigan has seen the Yampa Valley change in innumerable ways. Among the most noticeable, according to him, is growth in the form of population increases and development. With demographers estimating the county’s population could almost double by 2050, Corrigan wants to accommodate that growth while protecting the vast open spaces many residents value.
Current regulations have sought to focus growth to municipalities in Routt County, such as Steamboat Springs and Hayden, while preserving rural areas.
“It is my hope and belief we will continue to support that concept,” Corrigan said.
One way to do so is through the county’s master plan, a document, currently under revision, that establishes land use policies. Officials hope to finalize the revisions by 2021.
Amid the county’s growth, Corrigan said partnerships are vital. He helped to oversee the collaboration between the city and county on the construction of the new combined law enforcement facility, which saved both parties money. The facility was built with the idea it would be sufficient to accommodate the county’s needs for decades to come, Corrigan said.
The South Routt commissioner also pushed for the creation of the Oak Creek Mountain Park near his home. The Board of Routt County Commissioners contributed $250,000 to keep 140 acres of previously private land in Oak Creek accessible for public recreation.
Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel commended Corrigan for being “a big voice for South Routt.” She mentioned in particular his ability to galvanize various groups to achieve a common goal.
“He puts people together in partnerships to get things done,” Knoebel said.
Looking to the future, Corrigan said the county faces some complicated changes.
The issue of climate change presents a particular conundrum. While he said he wants to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change and advocates for an aggressive climate action plan, Corrigan understands a transition to renewable energy has major consequences for the county.
The pending phase-out of local coal mines and power plants brings economic uncertainty to the area, both for those businesses and the people employed by them.
“I will do all I can to support the businesses and families that will be displaced by this transition and to preserve the critical community institutions that serve all of us,” Corrigan wrote in the letter announcing his campaign.
In particular, the loss of property tax revenue from these industries would bring major funding cuts to South Routt community services like the South Routt Medical Center and the Oak Creek Fire Protection District. Corrigan underscored the need to find an interim funding source for these services to ease the divestment from fossil fuels.
One possible solution, championed by Moffat County Commissioner Don Cook, would lodge a fee on renewable energy installations in an effort to offset the loss in property tax revenue. Corrigan did not outright support the measure but said he is keeping an open mind to such solutions.
“What we can and should be focused on is preserving community institutions that make our community an attractive place to live,” he said.
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