Steamboat planners skeptical of workforce housing proposal west of downtown
City staff recommends planning commission deny the development on Thursday
The Steamboat Springs Planning Department showed disapproval for a proposal for an industrial mixed-use development that would provide 24 workforce housing units. The department has passed its recommendation not to approve the proposal to the city Planning Commission, which will review it on Thursday, May 11.
This development is a project by Kruse Builders, which has previously done around 10 industrial mixed-use developments for the city. This particular one, named Lagom, looks to set up shop on 13th Street and includes 32 storage unit spaces alongside the 24 residential units.
The storage units would be available to the public to rent for industrial use, making the project a mixed-use development, and are the reason the planning department did not show support for the project.
Upon first review, the planning department found issues with the storage units, stating, “The self-service storage portion of the development will be used by renters as storage, no different than a garage. Storage would then, in effect not be a primary (conditional) industrial use, but rather an accessory use to the residential.”
To address these concerns, the developers upped the amount of storage units from the original number of 24, adding eight to make 32 units. Developers stressed they did not intend to make these for renters and in their second pitch to the planning department, said they looked to make it “impossible” that the storage only be for renters.
The group presented creative solutions such as suggesting a sort of development agreement that would require separate leases for storage units so that the residences and storage units are never leased together.
The planning department also took issue with the fact that some of the storage units would be not drive-up accessible. To address this, presenter Calasis Kruse, employee of Kruse Builders, called many mini-storage units in town to see if they provided drive-up access to units. She said she found that these facilities only have an average of about 50% of their units drive-up accessible. The other units, by code, must have access via an internal hallway or even a stair to a second level.
Kruse explained to the planning department that this proposal involves a 6-foot-wide sidewalk that leads to the storage units.
Still, on the second review, Kruse Builders came back empty-handed without a positive recommendation from the planning department and now must go to the planning commission for review.
In its staff report, the planning department said that this project in form and function does not align with the industrial zoning codes and is in essence a residential development. A major concern of the department was that tenants of the proposed units could be led to believe they are located in a residential area, when in fact the property will be zoned as industrial.
“Allowing housing in an industrial zone is always a concern to the health and welfare of the occupants,” Steamboat Springs Planning Department wrote in its staff report. “The proposed development configuration offers no additional benefit to the resident, but all of the negative impacts of living in an industrial zone.”
Calais Kruse admitted this was a bit of a shock because in the developers’ eyes this project seemed like a slam-dunk.
“It provides housing only a couple of blocks from downtown, which encourages use of multi-mode paths and cycling to commute, reducing trips on our roads and contributing to cleaner air and cleaner energy uses,” Kruse said. “Infill development is a high priority throughout the Master Plan as well.”
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission can be reached for comments at their website.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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