Steamboat City Council tables decision to repeal measure intended to encourage affordable housing
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since 2013, the Steamboat Springs City Council has suspended an ordinance intended to boost affordable housing in the city. On Wednesday, City Council postponed a decision to repeal the ordinance.
The city’s community housing code, frequently referred to as inclusionary zoning, was enacted in 2006. It required developers building three or more housing units to construct units deed-restricted to those with low to moderate incomes, dedicated land or a payment in lieu of complying with the other two options.
Council voted 4 to 3 to table its vote to repeal the ordinance until June 17, the first City Council meeting after a scheduled joint work session with the Planning Commission. Council Members Sonja Macys, Heather Sloop, Robin Crossan and Lisel Petis supported the motion. The item will not return to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission.
Since 2013, the suspension has never been lifted, though city councils have reviewed the suspension every year from 2015 to 2018.
In August 2018, City Council voted to indefinitely suspend the code and instructed staff to draft language of an ordinance repealing inclusionary zoning.
In 2013, inclusionary zoning was suspended for two years “in consideration of the economic environment and the needs of the community at the time,” Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey told council in the meeting.
“Most of the current Planning Commission has had no experience with that,” Bessey said. “While the sections of the code still exist in the (community development code), we’re not using them on any applications that we’ve seen since 2013.
“Our current Planning Commission isn’t very familiar with the sections of the code, and they thought that they lacked a history and understanding of why the community housing regulations were adopted in ’06,” she continued. “They didn’t feel that they had a very clear understanding of why City Council has continued the suspension.”
City Council members appeared a bit frustrated that the Planning Commission members felt they didn’t have enough information to make a decision.
Even Bessey said she wished she’d realized the commission needed more information, so she could have better prepared planning commissioners.
At the meeting, no one stood when Council President Jason Lacy asked for public comment, though two people submitted written comments.
John Spezia, who has been a vocal supporter of inclusionary zoning, argued in a letter that there is a dramatic increase in the need for entry-level housing and that move-up housing set to hit the market will be gobbled up by second homeowners and nightly rental services such as airbnb.com.
“Do not kill (inclusionary zoning),” Spezia wrote. “At least, put it on hold. At best, review it and use the flexibility the (inclusionary zoning) ordinance allows to fit our community’s needs and your concerns.”
Council members said they believed there could be more effective tools to promote affordable housing in the community than inclusionary zoning.
Council Pro Tem Kathi Meyer pointed to voters approval in 2017 of a 10-year, one-mill property tax to support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Lacy said there could be the opportunity to introduce inclusionary zoning measures that don’t apply to all developments — just luxury housing.
“If we were like a lot of other communities like Vail and Aspen — some of these other communities where the only thing their free market is producing is multi-million dollar units — this policy would make a lot of sense,” Lacy said. “It would make a lot of sense whenever none of those types of product is being produced by the market.”
According to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s 2016 needs assessment, the Steamboat area had a gap in supply of 819 units for low-income families and 153 units for those seeking entry-level housing.
Lacy said new construction in Trailside Village, the existing Fox Creek Condominiums and possibly the under-construction Overlook Park and Sunlight developments could help fill the demand for entry level and move-up housing.
Petis said she was frustrated by the policy because it raised money, but it didn’t create more housing.
Macys wanted to see another tool to encourage affordable housing on the table before the ordinance was repealed, a sentiment Sloop agreed with. She wanted to see the ordinance tabled until the council had the chance to discuss it with the Planning Commission to try to identify other options.
“Maybe we could come up with a more robust solution than simply walking away from this,” she said.
To view the City Council and commissioners’ discussion on this topic, visit docs.steamboatsprings.net:10100/OnBaseAgendaOnline.
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Steamboat Springs part-time resident David Dennis is approaching the third-year mark from when his right leg was amputated below the knee.