Zoning ordinance discussed
City Council passes first affordable-housing step
After about three hours of discussion and public comment, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved unanimously on Tuesday the first reading of an ordinance meant to bring affordable housing to Steamboat.
If it receives final approval on second reading, the ordinance — called an inclusionary zoning ordinance — would require that most types of new residential developments include 15 percent affordable housing. Half of that housing would be for those who make 80 percent or less of the county’s annual median income, or AMI, and the other half would be for households that make 120 percent or less. The annual median income for a family of four is about $72,700.
To draft the ordinance, city staff studied the regulations of other Colorado cities, including Mount Crested Butte and Boulder. But the ordinance that City Council members read Tuesday is unique to Steamboat, said Tom Leeson, the city’s director of planning services.
“I think what you have before you tonight is Steamboat’s inclusionary zoning ordinance,” Leeson said.
About 20 people stood to make public comment about the ordinance; all but one of them expressed general support. Most of those who spoke have an interest in the local development community.
Bob Weiss pointed out that the community wasn’t expressing much division on the subject. Scott Woodford agreed.
“I’m amazed at the civility of the discourse tonight,” Woodford said.
The ordinance lists several options for developers to comply. Many of the people who spoke Tuesday commented about the option to develop units off site from the market rate units. It reads that if developers build affordable units away from the market rate units, developers must build at least 25 percent more units than the number required on site. But if the original development is within the urban renewal authority boundaries, the ordinance states, there must be at least 50 percent more units than the number required on site.
Developer Whit-ney Ward told the council that differentiating the two would create unintended consequences.
“Now we have a disincentive” to build in the area, Ward said, instead of an incentive.
Several people said this aspect of the ordinance en–courages developers to keep the affordable units on site at the mountain base, but they said the mountain base is not a family-friendly place to live. The conflicts between full-time residents and vacationers are too great, people said.
Chuck Porter of Steamboat Square Enterprises said the company rents apartments to employees. The full-time employees “want to move out as soon as possible” because they don’t like living in the area, he said.
Kathy Stokes, president of the Steamboat Springs Cham-ber Resort As–sociation, said she has lived at the base area.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s like trying to raise a family there,” she said.
Council member Paul Strong said the council is not forcing developers to build the units in the base area. But he also said he didn’t like making the base-area, off-site requirement different, partly because the city drew the boundaries of the authority arbitrarily.
“I would prefer to have a standard amount throughout the city,” Strong said. “At this point, I’m still uncomfortable having different requirements at different areas.”
Council member Loui Antonucci agreed, citing a lack of community in the base area.
“It’s not a community, it’s not a neighborhood, it’s not everything a neighborhood should be,” Antonucci said.
Several people also spoke in support of providing incentives for developers to provide more housing than required, such as allowing variances from the city’s code. The council agreed to have the city look into including possible incentives within the city’s housing matrix.
The council also voted not to include employee units in the requirement. If a developer includes units for Routt County employees in a project, those units will not be counted as market rate.
According to city policy, the second and final reading of the ordinance will be placed on the Feb. 7 agenda. However, council members agreed that they would table the reading to Feb. 21 to give planning staff and Yampa Valley Housing Authority board members more time to review the ordinance.
— To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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