Council scraps ballot idea

Questions on West of Steamboat plan reconsidered

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— Two controversial advisory questions about the West of Steamboat plan that opponents said could kill the last chance the city has to provide affordable housing were scratched Tuesday by City Council members.

The regular City Council meeting was canceled Tuesday, but City Council President Kevin Bennett, after speaking with other council members, wanted to make sure the questions he had proposed did not make it onto the ballot.

The deadline for ballot questions was this week.

Bennett had proposed asking the voters this November if they want to get the chance to vote on the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and its funding before it is implemented.

The questions had no legal weight, but three council members said the implications of the questions could put the plan, meant to allow developers to build high-density affordable housing, in danger of being scrapped entirely.

Councilman Jim Engelken was especially distraught about the questions, which he said were worded in a leading manner and could make people think they needed to vote "yes" to stop rampant growth from occurring.

By Wednesday, Engelken was reassured the plan would likely survive.

"I feel much better about the whole thing," he said.

"There are other ways to solidify the financing and the inclusionary zoning requirements in the plan."

Bennett said his intention from the start was not to endanger the affordable-housing and self-financing requirements in the plan but to secure them.

The West of Steamboat plan, adopted two years ago, allows developers to subdivide land that is currently in the county, annexing that land into the city limits to let them build more homes.

It was seen as a win-win situation for developers and the city.

The city would ask developers to deed restrict at least one-third of their units to make sure they remained affordable and pay for infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, while developers could build high-density projects in areas that would have been more difficult to subdivide.

Bennett said, after reconsideration, an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the county allowing for annexation was a more appropriate way to solidify the good parts of the plan.

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