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County endorses Steamboat 700

Controversial annexation goes before City Council today

— In a split vote Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners threw its weight behind the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.

“There was a reason we created the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan,” County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “It’s our only hope for affordable and attainable housing to occur in Steamboat Springs.”

The commissioners voted, 2-1, to send a letter in support of Steamboat 700 to the city. On Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council gave preliminary consideration to a collection of ordinances and resolutions annexing the 487-acre project that proposes 2,000 dwelling units and 380,000 square feet of commercial space. A final decision is scheduled for Oct. 13.

Steamboat 700 is within the boundaries of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which contemplates growth and annexation to help accomplish a number of community goals, principally affordable housing. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority also has endorsed the project.

“We have to move forward with this,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “People who want to live in Steamboat need to have the opportunity to live in Steamboat.”

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, who represents the Steamboat Springs area, voted against sending the letter. She said she felt the letter was drafted too hastily and that there are some things that still need to be addressed in the annexation agreement. A small group of residents who attended the commissioners’ hearing Tuesday felt the same.

Jack White, president of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, said the organization “definitely supports Steamboat 700,” but also submitted a letter with a list of concerns.

The letter suggests revisions to the annexation agreement and further study of issues including affordable housing, water, transportation and traffic issues, revenue neutrality and sustainability.

“This is our time now to make this work for the whole community,” White said. “This is going to benefit the community; this whole project is. But this is not the time to be supporting the annexation agreement because there’s too much missing in it. It’s going to affect us all for a very long time.”

Many of the concerns expressed by residents and Mitsch Bush related to Steamboat 700’s community housing plan. To satisfy the WSSAP’s requirement that 20 percent of housing be made affordable to residents earning an average of 80 percent of the area median income, Steamboat 700 is being asked to donate 12.5 acres to the city and institute a real estate transfer tax of 0.5 percent.

A city analysis predicts that, in one scenario, the transfer tax would generate $8 million throughout 25 years and, when combined with the land dedication, create 409 units housing 1,649 people, with an average AMI of 78 percent. That would satisfy the WSSAP requirement. Resident Catherine Carson, however, said she has concerns with the assumptions underlying the projections and asked that Steamboat 700 increase its land dedication to a minimum of 14 acres.

Steamboat 700 Principal and Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said 12.5 acres was an amount negotiated with the city, and he noted the flexibility of the affordable housing plan to meet changing needs throug the years.

Click here for a comprehensive guide to Steamboat 700 including past stories, downloads, links, statistics and more.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 367-7507 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com