Steamboat residents start petition to get West Steamboat Neighborhoods annexation on the ballot
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, to include the Let’s Vote Committee’s email.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A group of Steamboat residents filed their intention to petition an ordinance annexing 190 acres of land west of current city limits, which is the first step to get the issue on the ballot for a public vote.
An affidavit forming a petitioner’s committee was filed with the city of Steamboat Springs this week, according to City Attorney Dan Foote. This is essentially a formal declaration that a group seeks to collect signatures to petition the ordinance.
The ordinance would annex land west of current city limits, which is slated for development as West Steamboat Neighborhoods, a project that proposes to build 450 housing units over the next 16 to 20 years.
The petition could trigger a referendum election on the ordinance if it garners 1,078 verified signatures from city voters by March 7, which is the equivalent to 10 percent of the total number of registered voters in Steamboat in the 2017 municipal election.
A referendum election would give voters an opportunity to vote on annexation of the property.
John Spezia, Richard Levy, Ron Goodrich, Steve Aigner and Paul Stettner are the core members of the committee. They’ve dubbed themselves the “Let’s Vote Committee.”
“The Let’s Vote Committee believes if council is split on this decision the community is probably equally divided,” the group said in a news release. “By creating a public vote, we can have a city-wide (sic) discussion on the merits of this annexation.”
“There’s a process there, and the process is going to play out,” Brynn Grey CEO David O’Neil said. “We’ll see how it plays out. While this is playing out, I think it’s important people view the process in a context. … There’s a housing crisis. It’s well-documented. People can’t find a place to live, and employers can’t find employees, and companies like Smartwool are leaving the community.”
“Our whole goal is to get a vote, and whether you like it or not, you should have a vote,” Spezia said. “That’s all we’re talking about.”
In 2016, Steamboat Pilot & Today reported that Brynn Grey Partners, the developers behind the proposal, “floated the idea of proactively taking the housing proposal to voters.”
“Some of the City Council members who voted ‘no’ felt strongly that this annexation should go to a public vote,” the news release stated.
Both Spezia and O’Neil said loss of community is one of their concerns.
“We’ve had three years in the public process, and we’ve come up with an awesome solution, and it’s called West Steamboat Neighborhoods, and it’s got 150 deed-restricted homes, and this is what we do,” O’Neil said.
He said his company’s developments in Frisco and Breckenridge represent the “gold standard for workforce housing.
“We win awards. We keep locals in the community,” he said.
Spezia said he hopes to focus on solutions in the petition effort.
“You don’t solve problems by creating more growth that creates more problems,” he said.
He said there needs to be solutions for traffic that arises as other projects and three new developments on Steamboat’s west side— West Steamboat Neighborhoods, Sunlight and Overlook Park — take shape.
“The real problem is not just this development and annexation, it’s also because the city does not have a comprehensive, long-term affordable housing policy and funding source for affordable housing, especially for the for-purchase entry-level income families,” he said in an email to the Pilot & Today.
Spezia has expressed concerns in public comment over the affordability of the homes, as a deed restriction will limit some homes to people living and working in Routt County, but it does not set an income cap restriction for those purchasing the homes.
Those interested in the referendum effort should email LetsVoteSteamboat@gmail.com.
For more information about West Steamboat Neighborhoods, email Melissa Sherburne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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