To the ballot: Steamboat voters to decide west Steamboat annexation
Editor’s note: The election has been postponed to June 25.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In June, city voters will decide whether or not to annex an additional 191 acres into the city of Steamboat Springs.
An annexation ordinance was approved by Steamboat Springs City Council on Feb. 5. The ordinance would see 191 acres annexed west of the Overlook Park subdivision. Brynn Grey Partners would develop the land as West Steamboat Neighborhoods, a complex of three neighborhoods containing 450 housing units that would be built over the next 16 to 20 years.
In addition to a new school, parks and open space, the project is slated to have commercial, mixed-use and large-format retail areas, which are anticipated to included a day care center and grocery store.
On Tuesday, the city clerk presented City Council with a certificate of sufficiency on an amended annexation referendum petition, leaving the council with the choice of repealing the ordinance or referring it to a public vote.
The petition, first deemed insufficient with 835 of the 1,078 needed signatures to make council reconsider the ordinance, received an additional 327 valid signatures on an amended petition.
“Several months ago a group of us decided to petition for a ballot to allow the community to vote on the annexation in West Steamboat,” Let’s Vote Committee member John Spezia told council in public comment. “At first glance, that might sound easy, but it wasn’t. Standing outside in the cold and snowy weather for hundreds of hours, believe it or not. Greeting strangers asking them to sign the petition in a short conversation took a lot of stamina and determination.”
Spezia suggested council review the annexation agreement and “work on a better annexation agreement with the West Steamboat Neighborhoods,” including “more land for affordable housing, effective deed restrictions, traffic solutions and following the West Steamboat Area Plan.”
Brynn Grey CEO David O’Neil said he believes the West Steamboat Neighborhoods proposal has deep support in the community.
“Everybody’s been saying ‘Let’s vote!’ ‘Let’s vote!’ ‘Let’s vote!’ ‘Let’s vote!’” he said. “Let’s vote. Let’s do it.”
“The petitioners are going to be very surprised,” he said. “We have deep support. We’ve been doing this for three years, talking to people. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think there was deep support in the community. There’s a great need There’s a lot of support. I think that’s going to be very obvious come Election Day.”
City Council decided to hold a special election on the annexation Tuesday, June 18. This date will be formalized by a City Council resolution at a later date.
The election will be conducted by mail-in ballot.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office will not be able to assist with the special election as it has in the past. The city will hire a consultant to conduct the election at an estimated cost of $45,000.
City Council instructed staff to request that Routt County provide financial assistance to conduct the election, as Routt County commissioners have voiced support for the annexation and development of West Steamboat Neighborhoods.
The election also has pushed back the date by which Brynn Grey needs to have a road access agreement sorted out with the developers of the adjacent Overlook Park. Brynn Grey must complete that agreement within 60 days of June 18.
According to City Attorney Dan Foote, the Fair Campaign Practices Act prohibits the city from spending money in support or opposition of the annexation. Staff can answer unsolicited questions, but they cannot send staff members to a meeting with the intent of answering annexation questions. For this reason, the city will not hold additional informational meetings on the annexation.
“If people have questions, they’re welcome to call City Hall, and we can direct them to the proper people,” City Manager Gary Suiter said in the meeting. “We just don’t want to have it in a staged format.”
Council President Jason Lacy asked the community to keep the annexation discussion positive.
“It’s really important that the community engages with this in a respectful manner,” Lacy said. “If we were to resort to personal insults and childish jabs — the sort of things that we sometimes see, especially on our national political scene — I think that would be a real shame. I think it’s really up to us as a community to agree to disagree in the right way. I think we can do that. I think everyone’s capable of doing that.”
To view City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas. To view previous meetings in which the annexation was discussed, visit co-steamboatsprings.civicplus.com/653/Key-Sessions-Topics.
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