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Buzz about housing policies

Commission divided on proposal's substance, organization

— Proposed revisions to Steamboat Springs’ affordable housing policies are stumbling through the first step in the public process.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission decided not to express support Thursday for proposed revisions to the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, instead tabling any action and asking the Steamboat Springs City Council for more time to review the lengthy document. The ordinance will dictate affordable housing requirements for developers and regulate how the city provides workforce housing.

Commission members Kathi Meyer and Cari Hermacinski said the commission is divided about both the substance and organization of the ordinance, which the City Council is scheduled to review in a first reading Tuesday and a potentially final reading May 15.



“I believe it’s an ill-crafted ordinance,” Hermacinski said. “I don’t think it’s well written, and I think it needs a lot of work. I’m concerned that the City Council thinks we’ll be ready in May.”

“We only got through the definitions in three hours,” added Meyer. “From a process standpoint, this is the first time that we as a body have seen this” ordinance.



Hermacinski said a primary source of debate was “linkage,” a tool the ordinance uses to fund affordable housing. Linkage requires residential and commercial developers to pay the city a fee for a percentage of the market-rate housing units or employees created by their new development.

The revised ordinance in-

cludes single-family residences in its residential linkage policy.

“That’s where we really saw big debate,” Hermacinski said. “Traditionally, single-family residences have been hallowed ground in our ordinances. Now, what we’re proposing is to assess a linkage fee on anybody who constructs a single-family residence or adds more than 500 square feet to an existing residence – that’s pretty big stuff.”

Planning Commission vice-chairman Steve Lewis said he supports most of the proposed ordinance and thinks the commission will have ample time to finish its review and provide input before final City Council approval, potentially in May.

“I very much want to secure ownership for our workforce,” Lewis said. “It is something that we as a community have put off much longer than other resort communities. We’re already way behind.”

Lewis said he disagrees with a clause in the ordinance that allows developers to fulfill affordable housing requirements by providing rental units.

“I’m not in favor of offering for-rental as an option,” Lewis said. “The inclusionary zoning ordinance was intended to get our workforce into ownership, which creates a bond to our community that is much stronger than what you get with rentals.”

Thursday night’s Planning Commission also included the election of new commission officers. While Lewis was elected to continue serving as vice-chair for the next year, Meyer was not elected to continue in her longtime role as commission chairwoman. Commission member Nancy Engelken will replace Meyer as chairwoman.

“Nancy has good experience with running meetings – I think she’ll do a good job,” said Tom Leeson, director of city planning services.

While some Planning Com-

mission members questioned whether the revised inclusionary zoning ordinance is ready for City Council review Tuesday, Leeson said the proposal is still in the early stages of the public process.

“A first reading is nothing more than an introduction of an ordinance,” Leeson said. “There is no need to postpone the first reading.”

Hermacinski, an attorney, said she hopes to see more public involvement regarding the city’s shaping of a new affordable housing policy.

“What we got on Monday is not what I would want to see the community adopt,” Hermacinski said. “I think there needs to be a community debate on the substance of the ordinance.”


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