Housing development west of Steamboat gets green light from City Council
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Because of the well-chronicled shortage of housing in Steamboat Springs, the city continues to weigh its priorities of encouraging high-density, infill, and workforce housing developments within the restrictions of the city’s community development code.
On Tuesday, April 25, City Council unanimously approved the development plan for Bear River Village, a 55-unit housing development of 13 row house buildings on the west side of town off U.S. Highway 40, across from Advance Auto Parts and adjacent to Bear River Park.
Of those 55 units, 17 are designated as deed-restricted workforce housing for workers in Routt County.
While the development plan and its attached variance requests were supported 6-0 by City Council, concerns were raised by both City Council and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission regarding density of the 55 units on the 2.29-acre space and the shortage of snow storage.
“When I see the size of these places, they’re the size of a tiny home, maybe even smaller,” said council member Dakotah McGinlay.
“Amen,” replied council member Michael Buccino, who owns MicroLiving LLC and developed a six-unit tiny home complex in Milner.
“I’m fully supportive of this project,” Buccino said. “I think this is fantastic. We’ve needed this small scale.”
Buccino said the housing project would benefit the “middle part” of Steamboat and those who live in town and are tired of living with roommates. He said the seven variance requests attached to the project are common among new developments and were manageable enough to approve the project.
While the largest two-bedroom-and-den units are listed at 950 square feet, the smallest studio apartments in the development plan are listed at 332 square feet, about the size of a single-car garage.
“But they’re probably going to be four or five or 10 times the price of a tiny home because they’re going to be market rate,” McGinlay said to the other council members.
But despite her reservations, McGinlay voted in favor of the housing project.
Robert Rusher Jr. from the Planning Commission was also apprehensive about the development plan, and he was the only person between both the Planning Commission and City Council to oppose the project, as the Planning Commission voted 5-1 on April 13.
“Remove a couple of units, make more snow storage, make more parking, that would appease me,” Rusher said. “But right now, I’m not for it.”
The development plan calls for 86 parking spaces, above the city’s standard of 79 for this particular project, and it was noted that the project’s proximity to public transit and the Yampa River Core Trail provide alternatives to driving.
The city’s minimum snow-storage requirement, however, was not met by the applicant and required a variance.
The project’s applicant representative, Four Points Surveying and Engineering, said that expanding the snow storage area would result in “a significant reduction of units.”
While the entire property is listed at 5 acres, the southern half is protected wetlands that can’t be used for snow storage or any sort of development. The city’s development code calls for 14,436 square feet of snow storage, which is based on the average elevation of the units and the square footage of the project’s paved areas.
The development plan, however, has only 6,634 square feet dedicated to snow storage, meaning snow would need to be hauled away. But the presence of at least some snow storage made the project seem more reasonable.
“Sites that have no snow storage — that is less viable,” Senior Planner Toby Stauffer said. “But it did seem like there were a few areas around the site where they could store snow, just not quite all of it.”
Both City Council and the Planning Commission were concerned about the prospect of hauling away large amounts of snow, but ultimately felt it could be done.
Outside of the snow storage requirement, there wasn’t much concern regarding the other six variance requests, which pertained to standards such as the development code’s minimum ground-floor height and minimum roof pitch.
Council member Gail Garey expressed her concern about the project’s snow-storage plan, saying she hopes hauling snow doesn’t leave a large carbon footprint, and she hopes the additional cost of hauling snow doesn’t place too high of a financial burden on the residents of those units. Ultimately, she declared that developing workforce housing is worth it.
“I have some concerns and just hope that as we continue to work through this we can make sure that we think about those things going forward,” Garey said.
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