Steamboat Springs As laid out in the West of Steamboat Area Plan, the expansion of the city of Steamboat Springs will likely go west, as did the heady founders of this town more than a hundred years ago.
The effectiveness of that plan, which was drawn up to try to address what some see as rampant uncontrolled growth in the city, will receive its first test tonight when the Planning Commission reviews West End Village, a 137-unit residential project.
West End Village is a pet project of Regional Affordable Living Foundation Director Rob Dick, who will present it tonight along with RALF Assistant Director Ellen Hoj.
The project 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.
Acting Assistant Planning Director Scott Woodford was skeptical of the idea that this project is the "silver bullet solution" to the affordable housing problem in Steamboat.
"Just given the number of lots they're offering, in relation to what we sense is the demand for affordable housing, it will only put a small dent in the problem," he said. "But it will hopefully be a good model for the future."
The 137 homes include 58 single-family units, 49 detached secondary units and 15 duplexes on about 30 acres off Downhill Drive.
According to the West of Steamboat Area Plan, 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).
The area plan necessitates a number of deed restrictions on the affordable housing, including making sure the residents are all employed in Routt County and restricting certain aspects of the resale process.
Deed restrictions are necessary to ensure an affordable home will not, like most property in Steamboat, become quickly unaffordable.
West End Village actually goes beyond the plan's requirements for affordable housing, providing a full 50 percent of the units to low-income families.
RALF is planning on teaming up with a private developer who will front the money for the project, while RALF agrees to buy 50 percent of the property from the developer.
That developer was initially Steve Cavanagh, who left the project just last week.
Hoj said there are a few interested developers looking into taking over for Cavanagh.
The new developer will likely have to accept whatever the Planning Commission recommends, as he or she will come in after the initial city planning process.
Hoj said she hopes the private developer will make sure the homes he or she builds (the other 50 percent) will also remain affordable by building smaller units.
"The whole theory is to keep the houses small and to keep the costs down that way," Hoj said.
The project, beyond the fact that RALF has not yet found a developer, is a complex one, and Hoj expects to draw a a number of comments from the Planning Commission tonight, she said. She is confident, however, that RALF can survive any setbacks.
"We haven't gotten a curveball that we weren't able to hit," she said, and then paused. "Well, not this week anyway."
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