Letter: Steamboat’s vision, resort’s plans should be parallel, not perpendicular | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Steamboat’s vision, resort’s plans should be parallel, not perpendicular

It is evident to anyone watching Steamboat City Council meetings that its members are diligent and hard-working and are trying their best to carry out their perceived role on the council. My concern is not whether these individuals are hard-working, but rather that their time-consuming focus aims at the nuts and bolts of city operations with little apparent attention to the over-arching policy issues that form the basis for those operations.

Discussions of city priorities, housing availability and sources for city revenue seem to ignore the major underlying policy issue. Alterra, the main driver of Steamboat’s economy, has plans to invest $200 million in its Steamboat operation; the council has a top priority of limiting the number of short-term rentals. Alterra’s investment must presuppose increased profits based on increased attendance, primarily by overnighters, not day-trippers. These two visions are inherently inconsistent and, over time, will likely lead to conflict.

Either Steamboat needs a “future vision” consistent with that of the mountain, or it should clearly tell Alterra that its planned major investment needs to be directed to another site, not Steamboat. The current path isn’t fair to Steamboat’s taxpayers nor Alterra’s shareholders and employees.

Discussions related to sources of funding for city priorities raise a second serious policy issue. These discussions consider almost exclusively sources that shield “locals” from paying for perceived priorities and focus on increasing taxes on visitors, effectively increasing the cost of Steamboat as a destination. Raising the cost of Steamboat as a destination has direct impact on important variables, such as occupancy rates and the types of visitors attracted. While these may not be important to the council, they are certainly of interest to businesses and residents in Steamboat.

Over my years spending winters as another taxpayer on the mountain without representation, I have noticed that as the cost of Steamboat as a destination has risen, fewer families seem to be coming to town — replaced by an increasing number of affluent, often self-entitled, obnoxious young groups. This focus on increasing the cost of Steamboat as a destination instead of on who is coming to Steamboat is, I believe, a serious policy mistake that is not even being considered.

Council needs to engage the entire Steamboat community, including short-term rental owners and Alterra in developing a vision for the future. A vision based on conflicting agendas between the community’s policymakers and its primary economic actor is just misguided.

James E. Vermillion

Steamboat Springs

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