Tuesday, December 19, 2000
Steamboat Springs The city's new vision for the westward expansion of Steamboat Springs received its first official mandate Tuesday night as City Council voted to approve a development permit for West End Village, the first development to be reviewed under the West of Steamboat Area Plan.
After tabling the project two weeks ago to allow city staff to meet with the applicants and determine how they would come together on a number of unresolved issues, council acted relatively quickly in approving the project with staff's recommendations.
"I think that anytime we have a chance to fill a niche in terms of our affordable housing problem though this only addresses part of the problem it is incumbent upon us to try to work out the issues," said City Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell. "We just had to make sure we weren't giving away the store."
The 137-unit project off Downhill Drive is seen by many, including both the Steamboat School Board and the Steamboat City Council, as one of the few viable sources of affordable housing for local employees.
The Regional Affordable Living Foundation, in conjunction with local contractor Steve Cavanagh, has promised to offer at least 50 percent of the units to low- and middle-income families, while the other half would be offered at market prices.
According to the West of Steamboat Area Plan, at least one-third of the dwellings built in any given project in the west of Steamboat area must qualify as affordable, meaning they must be reserved for households making at most 120 percent of the median income in Routt County (adjusted for household size).
RALF was excited about the prospect of getting started on the project after negotiating for weeks with city staff and spending nearly 10 total hours in Planning Commission and City Council meetings.
"This will be a wonderful neighborhood when we are done," said Rob Dick, RALF's executive director.
RALF was able to agree with staff on almost every controversial issue, though the organization was unable to convince the city that they ought not be responsible for the entire cost of specific road improvements near the development.
Council agreed with staff that the applicants would have to pay for a left-hand turn lane at the intersection of Downhill Drive and U.S. 40, based on the results of a Transplan Associates traffic impact study. RALF argued that, based on the study, the project would contribute about 30 percent of the total traffic at the intersection and should thus pay only 30 percent of the costs of the new lane.
Dick also asserted that because RALF is unsure of how much the improvements will eventually cost, those improvement costs may prove prohibitive to the affordability of the homes.
City staff, however, was unwilling to budge on the road improvement issue.
Another of the main difficulties with the project as of the last reading was the lack of an adequate route to an existing bus stop on U.S. 40, said Transit Director George Krawzoff. Without access to that stop, the residents of West End Village would have no way to use public transit, aside from climbing down a steep hill or walking along the shoulder of Downhill Drive to the stop, he said.
The city was able to find a way to get residents down to the bus stop by allowing the applicants to build a staircase down the hill, which Woodford claimed would not conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addressing council about road maintenance issues, Public Works Director Jim Weber noted the project does not conform precisely with the West of Steamboat Area Plan in that it does not allow for a 56-foot right-of-way, settling instead for 24 feet. That shortfall may cause the streets in the project to be deemed private, because Weber said the city may not feasibly be able to plow the area. Having private streets would necessitate the homeowners pay for road maintenance.