Steamboat Springs Members of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation are looking for a leader willing to champion the cause of an excise tax on new construction proposed for a city ballot in November.
As proposed, money from the excise tax would go toward buying land for affordable housing in Steamboat.
At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, four RALF officials began a process they hope will result in a coalescing of popular support for the excise-tax proposal. The four officials, led by RALF Executive Director Rob Dick, are looking to start a citizens' committee dedicated to advancing the cause of the need for more affordable living in Steamboat.
But before they can begin promoting the cause, they need a leader.
Because RALF gets city funds, the leader must come from outside the organization's ranks.
"Basically, it's a difficult job with minimal financial benefits," Dick said. "Actually, there are no financial benefits at all."
Dick, however, emphasized the importance of the committee to the community at large.
"The committee needs to educate people as to the need for affordable housing and the potential benefits of the excise tax," he said.
The other three members of RALF present at the meeting Tuesday were Jim Engelken, a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, Kathi Meyre, a member of the city's Planning Commission, and Ellen Hhe former director of planning for the county.
"We're looking for a citizens' committee to take the ball on the ballot question for the election," Engelken said.
Although Dick and the members of RALF have identified at least one qualified candidate for the position, they were unwilling to disclose the person's name Tuesday.
The RALF board initially proposed the excise tax to the City Council, which voted July 11 to begin drafting language for a ballot question on the matter. An excise tax would be levied on new construction on a per-square-foot basis and revenues would be dedicated to purchasing land for affordable housing projects. It is estimated that the tax could net up to $1.023 million annually.
Much of the opposition to the tax, according to Dick, comes from Realtors and developers, who believe they would be unfairly taxed while they are attempting to expand the Steamboat community. Local Realtor and developer Harold Stout has argued that the tax would unethically place a burden on people who have not yet moved to Steamboat.
City Council approved the ordinance for a ballot question on first reading Aug. 1, although there were a number of calls for further discussion, most notably from Councilman Bud Romberg. Romberg urged the city to increase the number of square feet new home builders could construct before they would begin paying the excise tax. As proposed, the tax would kick in at 1,300 square feet.
Dick explained that raising the square footage requirements before imposing the excise tax was one of the issues the four RALF members were discussing at the Tuesday meeting.
Dick further hopes that the county will impose an "impact fee" on development in order to keep developers from fleeing the city for the county.
In the meantime, the RALF board is hoping that it can find a competent and committed person to head its citizens' committee.
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