Our view: Seize the opportunity | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Seize the opportunity

At issue:

The council spent time quibbling about a non-binding MOU with a developer interested in creating locals housing.

Our view:

Stop sweating the small stuff, start focusing on the bigger picture and help solve Steamboat’s housing crisis.

The air of irony was thick in Centennial Hall last Tuesday night as Steamboat Springs City Council members debated whether or not to move forward with a non-binding memorandum of understanding with developers seeking to move forward with plans to build a locals housing neighborhood in West Steamboat.

The sticking point was Brynn Grey’s proposal to pay the city no more than $10,000 for city staff time spent analyzing the annexation application. Some members of council worried that staff time might exceed the $10,000 amount and wanted the city to be fully reimbursed. David O’Neil, of Brynn Grey Partners, made it absolutely clear that the reimbursement amount was a “deal point” — that the developers would not move forward with their plans until the city showed it was willing to “put some skin in the game.”

After 64 minutes of back-and-forth discussion, the council voted 4-3 to approve the MOU, and Council President Walter Magill summed up the frustrations of many of those watching the proceedings, when he said, “We’ve got a good opportunity here, and we’ve been waiting for years for the West of Steamboat Plan. Let’s get a motion. I can’t believe we spent an hour on this.”

The action on the Brynn Grey agenda item came directly on the heels of the Housing Steering Committee’s presentation, which prompted promises from several council to work on improving the city’s planning process to make an impact on the ability to develop more local housing.

And therein lies the irony.

How could the council pledge to make the planning process easier for developers to navigate and then turn around minutes later and engage in a lengthy debate over a rather small sum of money in Brynn Grey’s proposal? If this first step involving the developer and the city was this difficult, how much more torturous will it be to address bigger issues like water supply and roads?

In our opinion, City Council wasted time and precious political capital quibbling over an amount as little as $10,000 that ultimately helps move a housing project forward when Steamboat’s housing shortage is reaching crisis levels. Now is the time for deliberate action, especially when the city has an experienced developer willing to invest in building homes for Steamboat’s work force.

The council’s inability to take on a small risk to realize housing gains is concerning to us and gives us reason to question whether council members are truly committed to helping solve the community’s housing issues.

As councilman Jason Lacy said at last week’s meeting, it’s going to take political will to solve the housing crisis, and we agree.

We ask the City Council and the county commissioners to seize the opportunity presented by the release of a new housing study and make something happen that will move the housing supply needle.

Our elected officials are going to have to get used to feeling slightly uncomfortable and making tough decisions on big issues to realize the end reward of new housing.

And if the city, county and business community take action now and do things right this time around, we think Steamboat Springs has the opportunity to serve as a model for other communities struggling with the same issue of affordable housing.

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