Housing Authority’s new Sunlight Crossing earns OK from Planning Commission
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the Yampa Valley Housing Authority breaks ground later this year on its third affordable housing project, Sunlight Crossing, it will be targeting a little different tenant than its predecessors, the Reserves on Elk River Road and Alpenglow Village, nearing completion at U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the proposed apartment project Thursday, Jan. 9, in spite of some concerns about the traffic it will generate and the variances needed to build it along a commercial corridor.
“Sunlight Crossing is the second project funded through the local property tax and part of our goal of building a new project every year,” Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley told the Planning Commission. “The ultimate goal of this project is to hit that middle — those who (aren’t eligible for federally funded housing).”
The site is on the north side of U.S. 40. It borders Steamboat Veterinary Hospital on the west and Sunlight Drive to the east across from the existing Curve Court and the entrance to Cook Chevrolet Subaru on the south side of the highway.
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The plan is to create 90 housing units for households earning 80% to 120% of the median income here, to hit an average of 100% of median, Peasley said. Routt County’s area median income is currently $60,300 for a single-person household and $86,100 for a four-person household.
Tentatively, leasing at Sunlight Crossing could begin in early 2021.
The Housing Authority is reporting a 385-unit shortfall in demand for housing for local residents.
“The ultimate goal of this project is to hit that middle, for people who don’t benefit from government funds,” Peasley said. “Really, it’s a great opportunity for locals to continue to live in town.”
Steamboat Springs Planning Commission approved the plans of Steamboat resident Chapman Geer, Jr. to build Kabus Campground on a narrow strip of land on the city’s west side, which had yet to be assigned a zoning district since its annexation years ago.
The property is situated between the longstanding White Haven Mobile Home Park on the east and the Riverside Subdivision on the west.
Initially, Geer is proposing to install five large RV campers on wheels in his campground to provide a new form of guest accommodations — up to 30 days maximum — in the city. Ultimately, he would like to host as many as 14 campers.
The campers would be hooked up to utilities and would remain stationary. That could help some families transition to permanent housing. If his concept catches on, Geer would add more campers.
With promises from Geer of building privacy fencing, planning commissioners agreed to recommend shorter setbacks from his neighbors than the code calls for.
As a result, the Housing Authority will not apply to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for the tax credits that helped it to build The Reserves in 2016 in order to build Sunlight Crossing.
And the Housing Authority will work with a new construction partner, Gorman & Co..
Peasley said Gorman & Co., which focuses on workforce and affordable housing in a number of major U.S. cities, recently collaborated with Vail Resorts to build workforce housing on land it owned near Keystone resort.
Concerns about commercial zoning
Although planning commissioners voted unanimously for the Sunlight Crossing project, they engaged in a discussion about the wisdom of building workforce housing projects on parcels zoned for commercial development.
Peasley said his organization was determined to always build in close proximity to mass transit nodes — bus stops — and the commercial zones along Lincoln Avenue/U.S. 40 are where the free-to-rider bus stops are in Steamboat.
“Are we losing commercial space?” Commissioner Rich Levy asked. “When are we going to run out of commercial space, and do we have plans to make sure that won’t happen?
Commissioner Brian Adams shared Levy’s concerns, asking, “If we don’t offer any commercial space, how do we meet the needs of the neighborhood?”
City planner Kelly Douglas said there is still a great deal of land zoned for commercial activities across the city.
“It’s part of a larger fabric,” Douglas said. “When (we receive) new proposals, we have to look at overall land use.”
“We have pending plans to visit those questions through long-range planning,” principal planner Bob Keenan added.
Commissioner Martyn Kingston urged his fellow commissioners to favor the development of community housing in favor of the current commercial zone that runs the length of U.S. 40 through the city.
Tom Ross retired from the Steamboat Pilot & Today in 2018 after 36 years in the newspaper business. He continues to write a regular column for the paper.
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