West Steamboat housing proposal evokes strong reactions | SteamboatToday.com

West Steamboat housing proposal evokes strong reactions

Scott Franz

With Brynn Grey considering a new series of neighborhoods that could be annexed in west Steamboat Springs, city officials are discussing what infrastructure would be needed to accommodate the growth.

— Young professionals in Steamboat Springs are emerging as the most vocal supporters of a housing proposal that would add 450 units, including some for workers with lower incomes, to the west side of the city in the coming years.

The professionals see the proposal as a lifeline for younger community members who currently cannot afford to buy homes already available in the city limits.

"Will you make room for the future teachers and emergency service workers of this community, or are you guys going to be known as the council that was too scared to move forward, that was too obsessed with fiscal conservatism to think about where to put all the humans?" realtor Matt Eidt asked the City Council Tuesday night.

With the housing proposal chugging along and facing new obstacles and demands from the elected officials at each council meeting, Eidt accused the council of getting caught up in "paralysis by analysis" and urged them to advance the project.

While some council members share Eidt's concerns, other council members who are seeking more investment from the developer up front say they are looking to minimize the housing proposal's risk to the community.

Brynn Grey, the developers, are also seeking concessions from the city, such as a delay in adding a $1 million secondary water line to the neighborhoods, that other resort communities they've built in have accommodated.

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The result is a council that ultimately appears supportive of the new housing but cautious about making any concessions that might put the city at some sort of risk, which even the council has acknowledged it is still trying to define.

The public comments the council heard about the housing proposal Tuesday were some of the sharpest, most impassioned remarks made at Citizens Hall in recent months.

Reed Jones, chair of the Young Professionals Network, offered a human element to the debate over the housing proposal.

She said, while she considers herself lucky to have found a place to live in town, some of her friends have not had the same luck.

"I've seen a lot of really great people come with fine, great jobs and then not be able to find housing, and they've had to leave," Jones said.

Jones said she currently lives in a 450-square-foot unit, but she "can't live there forever."

"I need somewhere else to go," she said. "I want to thrive here. I want to move up."

Jones said she can't find move-up housing in her price range.

YPN has been encouraging its members to attend the council meetings and express their thoughts about the housing proposal.

Jones said YPN has not taken any sort of vote on whether to support the project.

As the meetings have dragged on and the council has met two rounds of water proposals with scrutiny, some of the young professionals in support of the housing project appear to have grown frustrated.

At the same time, the council also has been hearing from skeptics and critics of the housing proposal.

Steamboat resident Bill Jameson, who has been critical of the developer's proposal for how to pay for the development's water needs, submitted a lengthy letter to the council earlier this week further opposing the water plan.

Jameson has said the developer is not proposing to invest enough to make up for the lack of water rights on the property.

City officials said it’s hard to put a value on the water demands for the development because of the lack of a water market in the Yampa Valley.

Some community members have put themselves somewhere in the middle of the housing proposal, urging the council to explore the partnership with Brynn Grey but also not to give up too much.

"I think it's important to have a partnership. I think it's important that the city make sure they get a good investment from the developers and we put something in but not to the point where we put our community at risk," Steamboat resident John Spezia said.

Brynn Grey has noted at several meetings that other resort towns it has developed neighborhoods in have done such things as donated land and waived tap fees to facilitate the projects.

How far will the council go to meet the developers here?

Will the project stay afloat?

The groups still have several public meetings planned to talk about a wide range of topics including wastewater and roads.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10