Monday, February 12, 2001
Steamboat Springs With a change of venue comes a change of procedure: The Steamboat City Council, now comfortably entrenched in Centennial Hall, will do away with its weekly work sessions in favor of holding one entire meeting each month devoted to a few large topics.
The city's elected officials will bypass planning referrals and resolutions for the second meeting every month, setting aside time to review bigger policy issues.
Tonight, council will hold the first of those meetings under the new format, sitting down for three hours to talk about housing linkage and city finances.
The public still will be invited to the meetings and will be allowed to participate, Council President Kevin Bennett said. Public comment will also still be heard at 7 p.m., though City Manager Paul Hughes said the 7 p.m. slot might not be open for the public to speak about topics not on the agenda. The final decision will be up to council, Hughes said.
"If the public's there and wants to speak, we'll make time for them," Bennett said.
The proposed linkage program would make new development foot part of the bill for affordable employee housing through a set of mathematical equations calculating business owners' level of involvement in solving the city's affordable housing problem.
The details of those equations still need to be worked out. Those details include figuring out just how many employees are generated by new business operations and then deciding what percentage of those new employees must be provided housing by the business owner.
Owners of new businesses and residential complexes would have to create housing for their employees or find a way to ensure housing gets created. That could include actually creating the units or entering into a deal with another developer to build employee units. The city also may end up allowing the business owner to provide cash payments or land in lieu of building actual units.
No jurisdictions demand that new employers provide 100 percent of their employees with housing. In mountain communities in Colorado such as Steamboat, the highest percentage is 60 percent, implemented in Aspen and Snowmass Village. The draft ordinance proposes a 40 percent mitigation factor based on Telluride's linkage program, though City Council has not yet figured out the final mitigation factor.
The linkage program will inevitably make the initial cost of doing business in Steamboat Springs go up, a factor that has already drawn concern from community members.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association sent a letter to council urging it to revise the draft ordinance, which chamber leaders think is too extreme. The draft ordinance hasn't been discussed in detail by council yet.
The chamber also wants the city to undertake a thorough update to a 1994 housing needs assessment study before implementing the linkage program.
The linkage program, some council members assert, may end up attracting a more stable work force to Steamboat, which in the long run would help businesses and the city a lot more than it initially hurts their pocketbooks.