City Council FYI: Local groups address housing needs
During the time that I have lived in Steamboat Springs, and particularly during my past two and a half years serving on Steamboat Springs City Council, the most common concern that I hear from the community is what to do about the lack of attainable housing options. City Council has taken heed of the recommendations of the Housing Steering Committee which reported to us in December 2016, and we are making best efforts to create an environment that will help facilitate the creation of more housing.
There were numerous appropriate recommendations that came from the hard-working and knowledgeable group of community members that comprised the Housing Steering Committee, and City Council is taking action to implement many of these ideas. One of the recommended courses of action was to attempt to streamline the regulatory approval process for planning applications. As a result, the city of Steamboat Springs hired an outside consultant which provided more than 100 recommendations on how we could improve the planning process.
The city is in the midst of implementing those recommendations as we speak, and it will be an ongoing and ever-evolving process I hope will result in a better process for applicants, city staff and the community as a whole.
Another recommendation to help streamline approvals was to delegate some decision-making authority to the city Planning Commission. This is something that I have championed from the time that I served on the Planning Commission, and Council has requested that staff provide language in the near-term to amend our Community Development Code which will allow Planning Commission to be the final decision-making authority on most items other than ones with significant variances.
This is appropriate given the expertise and detailed understanding of our Community Development Code that members of Planning Commission have attained.
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Moreover, City Council recently had a work session in which we endorsed additional incentives to allow for the creation of more housing opportunities, such as more flexibility in creating secondary units, possible revisions to design standards to determine if they properly balance aesthetic appeal and affordability, and the possibility of additional sites for manufactured housing developments, just to name a few.
Of course, none of these steps will make a big difference if the community does not see the creation of additional supply of attainable housing. That is why I am encouraged by what I see, from the breaking of ground on units in Sunlight subdivision, the possibility of new homes in Overlook in 2019, a new potential project from the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and the potential for adding homes in a portion of the former Steamboat 700 parcel. It is this last item that seems to have generated the most interest from community members, and I wanted to provide a brief update on where we stand.
City Council has been meeting with the development company Brynn Grey through the course of nearly two years and more than 19 meetings. We have been working on detailed negotiations to ensure all matters including water, sewer, road improvements, road service, parks, trails and open space are addressed in a way that balances the need to protect the community’s financial risk if an annexation is allowed with the need to foster more housing options.
I have received comments from community members that run the gamut from “Approve the annexation immediately!” to “Don’t approve any new growth in the city!” and everywhere in between. I have also heard many specific concerns that relate to water and sewer service.
What many people may not realize is, the city has ample water rights to allow for the build out of this proposed annexation as well as additional undeveloped lots within current city limits. The focus on our negotiations in regard to water has been ensuring that the development brings funds that allow the city to obtain additional water rights to assist with our redundancy and long-term water planning efforts.
Moreover, the city will be collecting customary water and sewer tap fees which go toward capital planning and related needs in these areas. Perhaps the biggest financial risk is the cost of ongoing services such as snowplowing, police, fire/EMS and road repairs that will flow from a new development.
Since the city does not have a property tax as part of its revenue structure, the development will not pay for itself with sales tax dollars generated from residents. So, we are working on formulating an ongoing structure which might include a real estate transfer assessment on sales of property in the development and/or a property tax component for this development which will fund ongoing costs.
The bottom line is that nobody on council questions the need for more attainable housing options. We are well aware of the challenges that our community faces and that maintaining our community character will require sustained efforts by the public and private sector in regard to housing and other important areas. Our goal is to work through the negotiations with Brynn Grey through the next couple months. I sincerely hope we can come to terms on a mutually acceptable pre-annexation agreement. Please reach out to me or any other council members with questions or concerns at any time.
Jason Lacy is president of Steamboat Springs City Council. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and may not be reflective of the opinions of other City Council members.
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Tuesday, Sept. 21