Planning commission OKs dorms in industrial zones to help with housing crisis
Matter will now go before Steamboat Springs City Council
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Tuesday gave the green light to allow dormitory housing within the city’s industrial zones.
The plan will now go to Steamboat Springs City Council for final approval. The planning commission took up the subject after a housing subcommittee comprised of Steamboat Planning Director Rebecca Bessey, Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter and two council members recommended the idea as a way to build more workforce housing.
Dormitories must be within 600 feet of a business to ensure the zone retains its primary use, planning commissioners agreed. Dorms also must be affiliated with a business or school. Otherwise, planning commissioners would need to grant a conditional-use permit.
The industrial district resides mostly on the west side of Steamboat near 13th Street, Copper Ridge and Elk River Road. The commercial old town and commercial services districts include much of the downtown and Old Town areas.
What is a dormitory? The Steamboat Springs Community Development Code defines a dormitory as a residential facility designed specifically for housing more than five unrelated persons in sleeping rooms with private or shared sanitation facilities and shared kitchen facilities.
“I do think that this mix of uses in this industrial and commercial area will allow for employers to provide some more housing,” Senior Planner Toby Stauffer said. “That could really be a benefit to our community long term.”
Commissioner Rich Levy and Chair Brian Adams expressed concern about placing dormitories on the ground floor, as they did not want the industrial zone to be taken over with residential units. Smaller live-work units are commonly located above businesses within the zone.
“It could end up being a single building with minimal industrial usage with the way this is currently written,” Vice Chair Rich Levy said. “That’s been a long discussion here of the loss of industrial space, if we keep chipping away at it.”
In response, Stauffer said planning staff envisioned employers could build two buildings on a property — one for industrial use and one for housing. Industrial buildings would also be able to add a second floor or use an existing second floor as a dormitory.
However, Commissioner Jessica Hearns worried about businesses being forced to create additional industrial space to add housing, instead of being able to build a dorm where desired.
“To tell someone who owns a business in the industrial zone that they have to create a first floor of more industrial stuff to start building housing just doesn’t fit with the intent to me,” Hearns said.
Bessey said dormitories would likely be larger-scale group residences within the industrial zone. She said this would be acceptable because the dorms would directly support an industrial use.
“We know as more residential enters the industrial zone, it’s harder for those industrial uses to function without having negative impacts,” Bessey said. “It’s trying to preserve the integrity of the industrial zone for the uses that are there.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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