Steamboat City Council candidates for District 3, at-large seat talk housing, childcare, transportation and more in election forum

Candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council in District 3 and the at-large district speak during the Steamboat Pilot & Today Live Election Forum, including (clockwise from top left) Dave Moloney, Dakotah McGinlay, Walter Magill, Eddie Briones, Steve Randall and Daniel Gerke.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Editor’s note: This is the third of three stories about Steamboat Pilot & Today’s Election Forum, with earlier stories being about Steamboat Springs School Board candidates, and City Council candidates in Districts 1 and 2.

Candidates vying to become Steamboat Springs City Council members — four competing for District 3 and two seeking the at-large seat — spoke about the challenges facing the city and what they want to do to address them.

On Nov. 2, Steamboat voters will have the option to vote for four candidates — one from each district and one person for the at-large position. All residents may vote for all districts, but candidates must live in the district they are running in.

Candidates running in both races said they are looking to the Brown Ranch development project to the west of town as the answer for Steamboat’s affordable housing crisis with many saying that council needs to help move the process along without getting in the way.

When District 3 candidates were asked if they support the project if elected, each said they would.

“We have to annex the place, so lets streamline the annexation process,” said Steve Randall, a newer resident who said he is running because he is worried younger people can’t afford to stay in town. “Once it gets done, and we are in the process of building — streamline the permitting process.”

Walter Magill, who served on council from 2007 to 2017 and is seeking a District 3 seat in November, said the Brown Ranch needs to have good zoning and planning so that various pieces of the 536 acres can be subdivided for various densities of housing and other uses of the land. The city also needs to be flexible when it comes to building and planning roads.

“I think one of the things that the city needs to do is not get out of the way but make it a quicker process, eliminate the hurdles and the burdens, listen to the planning commission,” said Daniel Gerke, who said he is running for the District 3 seat because he feels it is his civic duty. “We need to really work with the community about what do you want from that ranch.”

Dakotah McGinlay, a 25-year-old sustainability student at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, said she was running for council because issues like affordable housing are directly affecting her, and the city needs to come up with creative solutions for affordable, workforce, family and senior housing.

When it comes to the local child care crisis, McGinlay said she feels it is in the city’s interest to improve availability and affordability of early childhood education in town.

“That’s such a profound time period in a person’s life and the more support that we can offer from a city standpoint, the better,” McGinlay said.

Randall said he has previously offered vouchers to his employees for child care expenses and felt that solution can be found through businesses offering these benefits rather than the city getting further involved in child care.

Gerke said the community has a lot of nonprofits and other groups that are heavily focused on child care, and they need to listen to them and help facilitate conversations that will lead to a solution the community is behind.

“We’ve been in child care previously when we had the Igloo,” Magill said, referring to a modular the city used to have child care programs in, which closed in 2018. “The city could move towards trying to find a piece of land or resourcing a building to make it into a child care facility and then letting contracts out for child care providers to operate outside of the building.”

On the issue of raising a local property tax, each candidate in District 3 said they where hesitant to do so.

Gerke said if there was need he would look into it, but he favored an accommodation tax that would charge tourists more than locals. McGinlay said she felt they shouldn’t take any property tax to the voters unless they thought it would have their support, and the city’s expenses need to be reviewed.

“I think we have other sources of income that we’ve left by the wayside,” Randall said, pointing to charging for parking and better taxing short-term rentals. “We all deal with variable income, and we adjust our own home budgets to that. I think we nee to do that as a city.”

Like others, Magill said he thought increased city spending in recent years was a larger focus than adding a property tax, saying the city has added more employees than its growth would suggest was necessary.

When it comes to transportation, each of the District 3 candidates said it was important but different on how to fund it.

“I think I would support paid parking in certain parts of downtown, but I would like to look at other alternatives, as well,” McGinlay said.

Randall said he felt the local transportation network needs to be expanded to encourage people to get out of their cars and get on the bus, which he would fund with paid parking.

“I’m absolutely for free busing … especially if we’re talking about the climate action plan,” Gerke said. “Free parking in this town is a problem. … We need to seriously consider starting to charge for parking.”

Magill differed, saying that it may be time to ask people to pay to ride the bus.

“I think it is time that the free ride go away,” Magill said. “People are used to paying with things with their phones, you could have a low income waiver or seniors waiver, fixed income waiver, but you can start charging guests for $1 a ride.”

In the at-large race, each of the candidates pointed to the Brown Ranch as the city’s answer to affordable housing.

“Steamboat is not as affordable as it used to be. That’s a function of the success that a lot of hardworking locals have had to build this community,” said Dave Moloney, a realtor that has lived in Steamboat for 33 years.

Moloney said there has been significant development of affordable housing by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which is nearly half way to a goal of adding 600 units. Council also needs to ensure it is out of the way of the Brown Ranch property being developed, he said.

Eddie Briones, who works for the Mount Werner Water District and has lived in Steamboat for 24 years, said the city needs to be able to explore different types of housing on that site to make sure they are making the best use of the land.

“We have to work closely with (YVHA) and partner with them to make sure that all the details are looked over,” Briones said.

When it comes to short-term rentals, which many believe are a direct reason why it is so difficult to find affordable housing locally, each candidate said they need to be more effectively regulated.

“Make the permit process very thorough and a little bit harder,” Briones said. “I feel that short-term rentals are run like a business, and I think they should be taxed accordingly.”

“We have a permitting system for vacation home rentals, but only about 215 or so have actually been permitted, and it is estimated that there are thousands of other short term rentals,” Moloney said. “Clearly, we need to have a better informed decision making process.”

When it comes to funding the Steamboat Springs Chamber, both Briones and Moloney said they felt that its marketing may not be as important to Steamboat as it once was. Briones credited the chamber for its work during the pandemic but felt that Steamboat Resort already advertises for the area. Moloney said he felt that businesses should shoulder more of the burden to fund the Chamber.

The two candidates agreed about using 2A trails money to build proposed Mad Rabbit trails, assuming the U.S. Forest Service approved the trails.

“I think dispersing our users, further from what we have currently would actually be beneficial. We’d have less crowded trails, probably be better for the wildlife,” Moloney said.

“Right now, Buff Pass trails are overly used, which is great to see,” Briones said. “Having another option over there would be great, it would relieve some of the pressure.”

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