Steamboat Springs 700 Referendum (2009)

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The Steamboat 700 Referendum was a ballot measure that was supposed to appear on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Routt County for voters in the city of Steamboat Springs.[1] Instead, this vote will now be held on March 9.[2]

This measure was defeated, meaning the annexation will not occur.[3]

The referendum was an effort in Steamboat Springs to oppose the vote of the Steamboard Springs City Council to approve what is known as the Steamboat 700, a residential and shopping development that in order to be built up as its supporters wish, requires Steamboat Springs to annex 700 acres of land around Steamboat Springs.

The development plan is headed by Steamboat 700, LLC, a group of real estate professionals.

Steamboat 700, according to its website, is a culmination of over 10 years of planning by Steamboat Springs in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan (WSSAP) and three years of planning by Steamboat 700 LLC.[4]

Residents in the area who object to the development, including Omar Campbell, are considering whether to subject a vote of the Steamboat Springs City Council approving the development to a public vote using the veto referendum process allowed under the city's charter.

A discussion was held on July 21, 2009 by the city council to discuss the issue of the Steamboat 700 project and the proposed ballot measure against it. The council then set dates of September 22, 2009 and October 13, 2009 for first and second readings on the annexation. After that time, the status of the referendum will then be decided. If the refendum is approved by the council, they will then schedule a public vote on the matter.[5][6]

Plan elements

Boundaries of Steamboard 700

According to the website of the Steamboat 700 developers, their project would provide:

  • An "exciting range of housing opportunities".
  • 146 acres of parks and open space
  • 13 miles of trails for walking and bicycling
  • Retail, restaurants and services, including a site for a grocery store
  • Many homes with "spectacular views of ski mountain, Emerald Mountain and the Flat Tops."

Path to the ballot

Residents have the right to challenge most Steamboat Springs City Council ordinances by gathering petition signatures and taking them to voters. Under Steamboat’s Home Rule Charter, petitioners must have signatures of at least 20 percent of the total voters registered in the previous municipal election. Under state law regarding local referenda, signatures equalling 10% of those voting in the most recent municipal election are required.

City residents will vote in November 2009 on a change in the city’s threshold to match the state level.[7]

In the meantime, the Steamboat 700 developers have agreed not to challenge a petition from opponents of the development with signatures equaling those required by state law, as opposed to the higher threshold required under the city's charter.[4]

As of November 5, petitioners turned in their first set of signatures to get this issue on the ballot to vote on. The had until the 12th to submit the required number of signatures. The city council will reviews the signatures after that date and if there are enough the referendum would go to a vote the beginning of next year.[8]

A council decision will be reached by December 15 on whether or not the issue will be put to a public vote. The majority of the council are in agreement that they want the public to vote on the issue so it is believed that come the December meeting a date will be figured out for the vote. This decision has come after more than 930 signatures were verified in the petition that was turned in on November 5. The City Clerk will present the verified petition on December 1 in order to let the council and the residents know that it has passed. If a vote is agreed on it would take place the beginning of next year.[9]

As of December 15, the council voted unanimously to put the referendum to a vote on March 9. A yes vote would mean the voter chooses to uphold the ordinance the council approved that annexes the land.[2]


After the public announcement that there would be a vote on this issue, a group called Good for Steamboat came out saying they wanted to officially be known as the group in favor of the annexation and this measure. The group is trying to get as much information about this measure to the public so they can make an informed vote. They are also being funded by the Steamboat 700 development group.[10]


The Let's Vote group has come out against this annexation measure. They were the group that had petitioned the government to allow for a public vote. While they were gathering signatures they never took a side on the issue, but now that the issue will be put to a vote they have taken a stand against the issue. Their main argument against is the rise in traffic in the area, water use and the availability of housing, what they call the hidden costs of the measure.[10]

Reasons for opposing plan

Omar Campbell, the development's main opponent, gives these reasons in opposition:

  • "They’ll increase the traffic by 2,000 houses to be built."
  • There will be "at least two or three vehicles per house, and all of them will be coming into town every day to work and shop and do whatever they do, and we’re already at the maximum."[4]
  • The council members need reassurances that the proposed plan would create affordable housing, they want the proof in numbers, if not then the plan is not worth the money or land[11]

Reasons for supporting plan

In a statement made by the West Steamboat Area Plan, they defend the logic behind choosing the Steamboat Springs area by stating:

"Due to a variety of factors, the West of Steamboat Springs area is the only remaining area suitable for higher density residential growth in the Steamboat Springs vicinity. If residential growth cannot occur within the Steamboat Springs urban area, it will likely be forced to outlying areas such as Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Hayden and Craig. This will result in increased commuting time, road and infrastructure costs, traffic impacts, split family life and other social costs, and higher costs of recruiting a work force for Steamboat Springs businesses”

The ability to build houses and commercial property nearby allows the city of Steamboat to expand and grow, something a city needs in order to survive. With affordable housing nearby it would potentially attract businesspeople and would help the local economy in the long run.[11]

Council's Decision

On October 21 it was reported that the city council overruled the ordinance that was asking for a vote to stop the referendum. The council took the decision out of the people's hands and did not let democracy run its course. A group has now been formed to petition residents by asking them if they would like to right to vote on the annexation, they need 829 signatures, 10 percent of the voters who voted in the last election. If they acquire these signatures the city council can repeal their ordinance or take it to the people to vote on.[1]

Home Rule Charter

Steamboat Springs, in Routt County, Colorado, has a population of about 7,000. It is one of close to sixty cities in Colorado that is self-governing as a Home Rule city under Article XX of the Colorado Constitution. As a Home Rule municipality, the city adopts a city charter to govern how its decision-making process.

See also

External links