City Council supports possible excise tax vote

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— Steamboat Springs City Council took a step Tuesday night toward asking voters to approve an excise tax on new construction that would help fund land purchases for affordable housing.
Council voted 6-0 to have city staff begin drafting language for a ballot question. The action by City Council, taken in a work session, does not mean the excise tax will go to the voters on Nov. 7. But it does mean a clear majority of council is favorably disposed to the possibility.
Before the question (which hasn't been formulated) goes to the ballot, an enabling ordinance would have to pass two readings in public hearings.
An impact fee would charge a dollar amount per square foot of new construction. The amount of fee would probably be a sliding scale, suggested Rob Dick of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. RALF has proposed a scale that ranges from no fee for houses smaller than 1,300 square feet, up to $1, $2 and $3 per square foot, depending upon the size of the structure.
"My best estimate is that this will go a very long way toward solving the affordable housing crisis in this community," Dick said.
In conjunction with a city excise tax, RALF is recommending the Routt County Board of Commissioners impose an impact fee on development to parallel the city's voter-approved excise tax.
The county is unable to impose excise taxes.
Impact fees differ in that the county would have to be able to show a cause-and-effect relationship known as a "rational nexus" establishing that new developments create demand for affordable housing. The impact fee would not be imposed within the boundaries of municipalities only in unincorporated areas. The RALF board is scheduled to discuss the matter with the county commissioners at 8 a.m. on July 24 in the courthouse annex hearing room, 136 Sixth St.
County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Tuesday night she does not believe the board will ask the voters to approve the impact fee until the city excise tax is already in place.
Using building department figures on the 10-year average of new construction valuation in the city and county, Dick went through some complex calculations that led him to predict the proposed funding for affordable housing could net up to $1.85 million annually. Just how many housing units could be supported with that amount would depend upon the planning process, and how much RALF and local governments must pay for land, Dick said.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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