UPDATED: Steamboat City Council votes to annex land to be developed as West Steamboat Neighborhoods
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Despite a last-minute misstep by the developer, Steamboat Springs City Council narrowly approved an ordinance annexing about 190 acres west of Steamboat Springs.
“We have a lot of work left to do,” Brynn Grey Partners CEO David O’Neil said after the meeting. O’Neil’s company is the developer behind the project. “We’ve got a second reading. A couple council members have made it clear that there are a couple things we can do to earn their support, so we’re going to work on that.”
Brynn Grey seeks to build 450 homes over the next 16 to 20 years in three neighborhoods known as West Steamboat Neighborhoods.
“People need to understand; this is just the beginning of the approval process,” he said. “We have to get plats approved, development plans approved, building permits approved. We’ve got a huge amount of work ahead of us.”
Council members Robin Crossan, Jason Lacy, Scott Ford and Lisel Petis supported the ordinance. Sonja Macys, Heather Sloop and Kathi Meyer opposed the ordinance.
No ballot measure
The ordinance will not send the question of annexation to a ballot measure.
“This is the single largest land use decision, and I’ve been very tossed and torn on this one, but where I’m coming down is, I do want to see this come to a public vote,” Council President Pro-Tem Meyer said.
The annexation will be considered for second reading by the council at its Feb. 5 meeting, which would grant council’s final approval for the annexation.
If council approves the ordinance on second reading, city voters would have 30 days to file a petition to hold a referendum election on the ordinance.
A petition would require about 1,078 verified signatures, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the total number of registered voters in Steamboat in the 2017 municipal election.
The referendum process is outlined in Article 8 of the Steamboat Springs Revised Municipal Code.
Council President Lacy opposed placing the annexation on the ballot. He said it would feel like abdicating council’s responsibility as a representative government if they didn’t make the decision.
“I know we have one of the smartest communities in the country. That’s not the issue for me,” Lacy said. “It’s our burden and our responsibility in my opinion. … We’ve made a lot of biggest-ever decisions up here without sending it to a public vote.”
He referenced the multi-million dollar downtown improvement plan and Steamboat and Routt County’s combined law enforcement facility, which he said was the largest capital expenditure in the city’s history.
Crossan said she opposed a public vote because many affected by annexation live in the county and surrounding communities and would not be able to vote in a Steamboat municipal election.
Council voted to add a condition of approval to the ordinance regarding an outstanding third-party agreement with the owner of the Overlook Park subdivision. The agreement would negotiate access to West Steamboat Neighborhoods.
Brynn Grey does not yet own the property it plans to develop, and another condition of approval requires the company purchases the property in order for annexation to occur. Brynn Grey must have ownership of the property and an access agreement negotiated by Nov. 12 in order to meet the terms of the ordinance.
“I don’t see any reason to condition this, because I don’t know that (the developer) can perform,” Meyer said.
She said the access easement was a critical element of the plan.
Macys and Meyer indicated they would have supported the motion had all of the third-party agreements attached to the ordinance been executed. Sloop said she did not support the motion because she wanted to put the question before city voters. In previous meetings, Sloop expressed an interest in waiting to approve an annexation ordinance until all third-party agreements were complete.
Council requested two amendments to the annexation agreement between the city and Brynn Grey, which would clarify language in the document regarding other agreements with the Steamboat Springs School District and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
The annexation agreement was signed prior to those negotiations being finalized, and the new language will change the annexation agreement to mirror the final contents and intent of the other documents. Brynn Grey has until second reading to get the required signatures to execute the new annexation agreement.
“It’s nice to move it forward,” Lacy said. “We still have a few loose ends that we need to clean up before second reading, but I think it’s good, with almost two and a half years of work, that we finally have something to show for it.”
On Tuesday, it became public that Brynn Grey offered members of its Pioneers focus group the chance to enter a sweepstake offering a discount of up to $10,000 on the closing costs of a home in the complex if they attended one of the city’s town halls, which were held Jan. 12 and 17. The developer awarded a total of $30,000 to 13 winners.
One by one, council members expressed their disappointment in the developers’ decision to hold a sweepstake, accusing the developer of a lack of transparency and unnecessarily lobbying to sway voices at the town hall meetings.
“Ten-thousand dollars is not a breakfast or a cocktail party, $10,000 closing credit,” Meyer said. “That’s a reduction in sales price. To me, that’s the equivalent of a bribe to come to the meeting.”
“This marketing tactic, the sweepstakes, embarrassed me,” Ford told the developers. “Guys, we have worked too hard — individually I have, as well as council — to understand the points that have been negotiated in this agreement to somewhat be blindsided in what I would call a lobbying effort that none of us at council were aware of. Please understand this tactic contributes to undermining trust, which is essential in our process, and that’s a bummer.”
O’Neil defended the action, saying that it helped plant the seeds of the community.
“Why show up at a meeting like this unless they feel invested in the neighborhood?” O’Neil asked rhetorically. “That sense of being invested in the neighborhood is what creates the nucleus. The people you’ve seen speak here tonight will be the leaders of the HOA, and they will be the leaders of that community, and that will continue on. It sets the stage. I apologize if you feel like I’ve misused it.”
Brynn Grey’s Director of Acquisitions Melissa Sherburne explained that town halls are often a place where people complain and ask questions but rarely do they rally in favor of a project.
“A $1,000 closing credit — at the end of the day, I think 10 people got credits,” Sherburne said. “Maybe half of those will buy homes. It’s a small thing for them, and we shouldn’t have done it. We shouldn’t have done it, but I would really be very, very sad if this process gets derailed over this.”
Petis told Brynn Grey representatives they “totally missed the point of the town halls.”
Sloop agreed with Petis.
“Thinking that you can pack a room was not in your favor,” Sloop said. “This was solely to hear and voice complaints or any questions, so we can answer them and educate our constituents.”
To watch a video of the meeting in which this topic was discussed, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.
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