Steamboat council votes to continue suspension of inclusionary zoning law
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday night to continue to suspend a measure that required residential developers to provide a certain number of affordable units or pay a fee toward their creation.
The city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance was first passed in 2006 and required that 15 percent of homes in new residential developments be deed-restricted to provide affordable housing for people with incomes between 30 and 140 percent of the area median income.
If developers did not comply with the rule, they were required to pay a fee in lieu of the restriction that ranged from $45,000 to $144,497 per unit.
In 2013, City Council suspended the measure after developers complained it was unfair and difficult to sell the affordable units they were building. With the suspension in place, council intended to find another solution to incentivize building affordable housing.
In the years since then, city council members have come and gone, and inclusionary zoning has remained under suspension.
In 2017, local voters passed Referendum 5A — a one-mill property tax levy to create a dedicated funding source for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority for seasonal, low-income and entry-level housing.
“The claim that (inclusionary zoning) is unfair is hard to comprehend,” said Steamboat resident Diane Brower during public comment at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Apparently, it is somehow uniquely unfair in Steamboat Springs. (Inclusionary zoning) is being used successfully in other communities. It’s a fee designed to cover only a very small percent of the estimated impact to the community of a new development.”
Brower said inclusionary zoning is used in several mountain and Western Slope communities, including Avon, Basalt, Breckenridge, Carbondale and Telluride.
Council member Sonja Macys was the only council member to vote against suspending inclusionary zoning. She said she was not in support of continuing to suspend inclusionary zoning because she was concerned that council was not being creative enough in coming up with a replacement for it.
Council members Kathi Meyer, Scott Ford, Lisel Petis, Robin Crossan and Jason Lacy said they believed 5A provided an alternative to inclusionary zoning. Several said that the city should continue to seek better solutions to provide affordable housing in the community.
Ford said the inclusionary zoning measure was a “backdoor tax” that allowed council to collect funds on a specific group of people without holding an election under the Tax Payers Bill of Rights.
“For me, inclusionary zoning is a funding source,” said Meyer. “Last year, we asked the community to solve a community problem with a community solution, and they passed 5A. That will generate $850,000 in the first year of tax. That opportunity will translate into one or more projects.”
Council member Heather Sloop said 5A is a “baby step” toward affordable housing in Steamboat, but that inclusionary zoning was not the greatest solution either.
Ultimately, council voted 6-1 to suspend the measure indefinitely, with Macys opposing the suspension.
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