Our view: Housing proposal worth vetting | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Housing proposal worth vetting

At issue:

A real estate development company has presented initial plans for a local housing project in West Steamboat.

Our view:

The project proposal comes at a time when attainable housing is at a premium and it deserves to be thoroughly explored on its own merits.

A large portion of June 14 City Council work session was devoted to learning more about a housing development project being proposed for west Steamboat Springs. Representatives from Brynn Grey, a real estate development company that has successfully developed local housing neighborhoods in Frisco and Breckenridge, presented members of the council with their vision for a similar project in Steamboat.

Brynn Grey outlined plans for seven, multi-use neighborhoods that would be built thorughout 30 years on the former Steamboat 700 property. The project would be developed as locals housing, meaning a large majority of the housing units built would be sold only to those who work in Steamboat.

At this juncture, the project is in its infancy, and one of the reasons Brynn Grey wanted to present during a work session was to gauge council’s interest. Based on an informal poll of council members, it appears they are open to vetting the project further, but they were honest in voicing limitations to what the city could offer in the form of public-private partnerships to get the project off the ground.

We too are cautiously optimistic about Brynn Grey’s proposal, and we think the city is wise to explore all options when it comes to Steamboat’s housing crunch. We’re hesitant to describe it as a crisis yet, but we definitely believe the city needs to keep the issue of housing as one of its top priorities going forward.

At the work session, several young professionals from the community expressed their concerns about the cost and availability of housing for their age group. They spoke in support of a development similar to the one Brynn Grey is proposing. Creating a walkable neighborhood that includes a variety of housing, ranging from duplexes to single-family homes, at attainable price points was appealing to many of those who spoke in favor of the project.

There also were those who raised concerns about the size of the project. They cautioned the council to consider how an influx of almost 1,600 new housing units across three decades would impact the city’s infrastructure, including its water supply.

When Steamboat voters defeated the Steamboat 700 annexation proposal in March 2010, issues of density were at the forefront. Local residents who voted against the measure said they were concerned about the project’s potential impact on city funds, city infrastructure, traffic and water supply.

If the new project is to move forward, we think city planners and the developers must work together to address those concerns, and we encourage Brynn Grey to begin the important vetting process by submitting a development application with the city.

The next steps for gaining community buy-in would involve meetings with as many groups as possible. As suggested by several council members last week, community forums to discuss the project are going to be a key part of moving the development forward.

Brynn Grey has a strong track record of developing sustainable, locals neighborhoods on the Western Slope and Front Range. We’re not ready to endorse the project, but we do think there’s merit in exploring a development of this kind that could provide housing for locals who are wanting to leave the tight rental market and purchase a reasonably priced duplex or single-family home. Plus, the project would be built in an area of town that has already been identified for growth.

We encourage community members to keep an open mind, participate in community forums on the topic and look beyond the ill-fated Steamboat 700 project. This newly proposed project deserves to be evaluated on its own merits.

And if the project moves forward in the planning process, it will be imperative that the city and the developer proceed carefully and work together to come up with a viable plan the ensures that any additional land annexed into the city doesn’t come at a cost to existing taxpayers.

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