Steamboat talks heightened enforcement while revisiting special events permit process
After a year off from special events due to COVID-19, Steamboat Springs City Council is revamping the permitting process.
The July 4 parade will permanently move to Yampa Street after the city shifted it from Lincoln Avenue in 2021 due to the Interstate 70 closure rerouting travelers through Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40.
Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat special projects and intergovernmental services manager, said permanently moving the parade will ideally ease traffic and parking concerns on Lincoln and Oak streets.
The Halloween Stroll and Winter Carnival will both remain on Lincoln Avenue, as DelliQuadri said having children running around near the river could be a safety concern.
The city has approved $60,000 for special events in 2022. As of now, that money will be split into thirds, with $20,000 going to event support and the permitting process; $20,000 going to destination management, which includes alerting neighbors of events surrounding their neighborhood and ensuring the event brings minimal negative impact; and $20,000 to sustainability efforts, which would include financial incentives for events that involve sustainable components.
Steamboat began marketing events in its shoulder seasons with the Steamboat Chamber years ago in an effort to bring more tourists to town during the slowest times of the year. Since then, however, the city has seen a dramatic uptick in visitors throughout the year, and council has prioritized managing the number of tourists over efforts to continue bringing more people in.
“We’re going to be asking, ‘What is the impact this event is going to have on your neighborhood, and what is your plan to address that?” DelliQuadri said. “We know what the parking capacity is at our event venues, and many events regularly exceed that parking capacity, and that leads to impacts on our community.”
Council member Heather Sloop raised several concerns about event planners who consistently break the city’s rules. Sloop referenced “multiple groups” who repeatedly violate city code, but she did not mention which groups those were.
Event planners have to reapply for a permit each year. City Manager Gary Suiter, who grants the permits, said most planners are given a second chance unless they commit an egregious violation, such as trashing a city park.
When Sloop asked why the city almost always grants a second permit, Suiter said it was about giving second chances.
“If it’s a minor infraction, I would rather be considerate than just taking a hard line,” Suiter said.
Still, Sloop said many of the complaints council receives for certain events are not “minor infractions,” and the city’s enforcement should be stricter.
“There are some bad apples in this bunch, and I don’t feel it’s just been one year,” Sloop said. “We keep saying we’re being compassionate, but when are we actually going to put some teeth behind our permitting process?”
At the advice of the city attorney’s office, Steamboat currently treats event infractions like a code enforcement violation. If an event is causing a problem, the city sends a letter identifying the issues and giving the organizer a chance to fix the problem.
“The goal is compliance, not punishment,” Suiter added.
Still, Sloop felt a strongly worded letter with no real consequences may not be enough.
“There has to be teeth to this enforcement, and it can’t just be, ‘Don’t do it next year,’” Sloop said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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