Housing battle brewing | SteamboatToday.com

Housing battle brewing

Developers could take legal action against Steamboat Springs

Brandon Gee
Miguel Lopez works construction Tuesday on the new First Tracks project at the Wildhorse Meadows resort development. Facing slow sales of First Tracks' affordable condominiums, developers asked the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday to amend the city's affordable housing regulations. After the council rejected the proposal, citing a thorough study of housing policies scheduled for February, a development official hinted at legal action.
John F. Russell

— The Steamboat Springs City Council rejected developers’ requests Tuesday to relax affordable housing requirements at Wildhorse Meadows, but sweeping changes could be in store for the city’s housing ordinances beginning early next year.

That effort might not come early enough for development company Resort Ventures West, however, as one company official hinted at potential legal action after City Council rejected the company’s proposal to remove deed restrictions and income limitations for potential buyers of affordable units.

“All options are available,” said Brent Pearson, a principal and chief financial officer of Resort Ventures West. “We’re going to have to look at all our options – any type of potential action we can take. : It’s not the last time the city’s heard from us.”

Wildhorse Meadows is a resort housing development near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. One component of the project is First Tracks, an affordable condominium development aimed at satisfying the city’s affordable housing requirements for the development.

Citing their struggle to find buyers for condos in First Tracks, Resort Ventures West asked the city to remove the deed restrictions on the condos, which cap their annual appreciation at 3 percent in an effort to keep them permanently affordable. The company also asked to have income limitations removed, leaving a provision that only people working in Routt County be able to purchase the units as the sole restriction. City Council denied the request, 5-1, with several council members saying it would be inappropriate to approve the request in advance of a comprehensive review of the city’s affordable housing ordinances, which is scheduled to begin in February.

“It needs more thought and input,” City Council President Loui Antonucci said.

Council members Antonucci, Cari Hermacinski, Meg Bentley, Steve Ivancie and Walter Magill voted in favor of the denial. Councilman Scott Myller voted against it. Councilman Jon Quinn stepped down on the agenda item because his company has done substantial computer and phone system work for Resort Ventures West.

Pearson strongly disagreed with the majority of council and comments by Antonucci that government can’t move as fast as private enterprise would like.

“I understand your comments,” Pearson said. “I appreciate them. I completely disagree with them. When something serious happens out there, we move as quickly as possible. This is a very bad recipe for affordable housing.”

Resort Ventures West has been able to put just 14 condos under contract at First Tracks, which has 47 units scheduled for completion in June 2009. Delays in selling the condos, Pearson said, are delaying the entire development and increasing Resort Ventures West carrying costs and risk. The company spent $150,000 marketing the units, and Nancy Engelken, the city’s community housing coordinator, praised Resort Ventures West’s efforts as she recommended that City Council deny the company’s request.

Wildhorse Meadows has often been called a “guinea pig” for the city’s inclusionary zoning and linkage policies, which were revised substantially by a previous City Council last year. Although council members expressed their willingness to take a fresh look at the policies beginning with the February work session, Pearson regarded the prospect of waiting until then for resolution as a last resort.

“If all else fails, we end up back here in February trying to work with the city,” he said.

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