Goals unveiled: Housing, transit, climate and short-term rentals identified as biggest goals facing Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Goals unveiled: Housing, transit, climate and short-term rentals identified as biggest goals facing Steamboat

With four new members on the seven-person Steamboat Springs City Council, elected officials worked with City Manager Gary Suiter on Friday to list pressing issues facing the city and tangible goals to help solve those issues.

Members broke the issues into four categories — affordable and attainable housing, short-term rental policy, environmental sustainability and transit — with goals under each overarching topic.

“It kind of all goes back to who was elected to City Council and the direction the community has given us,” said Council President Robin Crossan.

In the case of affordable housing, council members agreed to do whatever they can to annex the Brown Ranch, a 536-acre housing development west of Steamboat recently purchased by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. The authority bought the ranch with a goal of annexing the land into the city and building affordable housing units.

“These are pressing issues in the community, and certainly housing, as everybody knows, is becoming more of a challenge,” said Deputy City Manager Tom Leeson. “That’s related to economic development and the ability for people to find workers, and it’s also related to diversity and inclusion to make sure we can get a diverse population.”

Council will hear a presentation from the Housing Authority on Dec. 14 about the first steps of annexation, a process that council members said they want done carefully.

Other steps to building affordable and attainable housing include revoking unnecessary red tape in the city’s planning process, though Crossan emphasized that does not mean sacrificing safety.

“The overall thing with everything we talked about was safety and security, and security of our community, and we agreed never to cut a corner on any of that,” Crossan said. “There are certain things that you just cannot skimp on.”

Council members also said they want to focus on building housing for the city’s employees. The city currently houses its bus drivers in Flour Mill Apartments, but they hope to also provide housing for other employees.

Council has also had several discussions with Routt County about building a regional transit authority, which could someday cover Craig to Steamboat and Steamboat to Oak Creek, though the two entities have not made any actual commitments. Crossan said in 2022 or 2023, council hopes to have more serious conversations with the county and other municipalities about the topic.

Leeson said transit fits under the goal of both affordable housing and environmental sustainability, because Brown Ranch will eventually require a Steamboat Springs Transit line to move residents from the development into town.

In addition to the creation of a valleywide transit system, council members are also looking into expanding the Yampa River Core Trail just west of town, landing it near the Steamboat II and Silver Spur housing developments.

As for short-term rentals, council members expressed a desire to preserve Steamboat’s community character, as they described this as a place where children can play outside and families can bond with their neighbors without strangers rotating in and out of the house next door.

“These are all issues that are front and center for the community,” Leeson said. “This council is responding to what a lot of people are talking about out in the community.”

As for specific policies around short-term rentals, council discussed extending the moratorium to apply for a vacation home rental permit, placing a cap on how many short-term rentals can exist in one neighborhood and placing a fee or tax on any money garnered from a nightly rental.

Council members also focused on ensuring environmental sustainability was apparent in each of the city’s goals, as they felt the issue played into every other problem facing Steamboat.

“I see it as something that we needed to look at a long time ago, and we’re getting to look at it in a deeper light more and more,” said council member Dakotah McGinlay. “How are we planning for our own survival of the future while also meeting our current needs?”

To match most other mountain communities, members discussed implementing paid parking downtown, which they hope would encourage residents and visitors to take the bus, walk or ride a bicycle into town, rather than relying on a car.

“These goals are very consistent with the goals that I have dealt with in my experience with managing resort communities,” Suiter said.

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