Steamboat planning commission denies mixed-use development west of downtown

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission denied this development submitted by Kruse Builders that would create 24 workforce housing units and 32 storage units. This rendering demonstrates the layout of the development.
Kruse Builders/Courtesy photo

After a nearly two-hour meeting with one agenda item, the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission denied a development west of downtown Thursday, May 11, with a 4-2 vote. 

The development application will appear in front of City Council on June 6.

Commissioners discussed at length about the development that paired ground level self-service storage with workforce housing.

While the applicant thought the two uses were compatible, commissioner Robert Rusher Jr. said the compatibility might be the issue at hand.

“Housing and storage are very complimentary,” he said. “In this case, it’s probably too complimentary that it muddies the waters on it being really residential with some accessory rental places.”

The development, named Lagom after a Swedish word meaning “not too much, not too little, just right” would be situated on 13th Street, just west of Captain Jack Drive. 

Calais Kruse, representing the applicant Kruse Builders, explained the development would include 32 storage units with 24 workforce housing units. With the exception of one ADA unit, the housing would be on the second floor, with two or four storage units per building on the ground level with separate, exterior access.

Kruse said the developers would target the 252-square-foot housing units to be rented to people making about 80% of the area median income. The 12 buildings would be centered on green space with parking along the outside of the development.

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“We think this is the perfect Goldilocks project where we are not having to spend taxpayer dollars,” Kruse said. “This is a project that works for us as developers, but also works for the community, and it combines two uses that have never been combined before, but they are highly compatible uses. It’s maintaining the industrial zone, while providing housing.”

Planning staff recommended the commission not approve the development. 

“Industrial use would need to be primary in our eyes. Residential use would need to be supplementary and secondary,” said Planner Jeremy Brown. “In this case, it appears to be laid out as a residential development.”

Citing the limited space of the unit and past renditions of the project submission, the planning department could foresee the residents renting out the storage spaces, which would only strengthen the appearance of the development’s focusing on residential use.

Kruse said the housing and storage units would have different managers and leases and that the developer fully intends for them to operate separately.

The developer previously proposed 24 housing and 24 storage units, but increased the number of storage units to emphasize that industrial would be the primary use. While the most recent plans of the development have exterior access to the storage units, there was an earlier rendition in which they were more deeply connected to the housing units. 

The city staff report states that neither change will affect how the development is used. 

“How is it appropriate that we’re taking earlier iterations of the staff’s narrative and applying it to a revised submission,” Commissioner Rich Levy asked. 

Brown said any submitted material is relevant to the intent of the development. With the green space, frequent use of the word community by the applicant and previous project submissions paired with the assumption that residents would be the ones renting the storage space, city staff see the intent as residential.

Commissioner Lou Tortora expressed concern about staff’s perspective. 

“I’m really torn on this project,”  he said. “I think the idea is good. While I have no issue with staff’s recommendations, I do have a concern about it being based on a lot of assumptions. The assumption is what’s the applicant’s intent, when the applicant said that’s not the intent. … I just have a hard problem with that.”

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