Oak Creek ponders housing authority

South Routt officials want more information

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— Oak Creek officials are interested in a multijurisdictional housing authority being created by Routt County and Steamboat Springs but the question is for how long?
On Thursday night, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and Steamboat councilmen Loui Antonucci and Bud Romberg pitched their proposal of creating a housing authority to the Oak Creek Town Board.
After about an hour of discussion, Oak Creek officials want more information about the authority, which could result in a new entity making decisions about taxation and housing policy.
"We would like to put our 2 cents in for a while and see what direction the county and Steamboat Springs take," Oak Creek Mayor Debbie Vangundy said.
The county and Steamboat Springs are interested in creating a housing authority because of a January recommendation by the Two Plus Housing Committee.
The committee, which is made up of an equal number of proponents and opponents of the failed 2000 city excise tax for affordable housing, has made several recommendations to county and city officials.
The first step in addressing the committee's recommendations is to create a multijurisdictional housing authority that could issue tax-exempt bonds and levy taxes.
If Oak Creek should join the county and Steamboat Springs in the authority, taxes for housing developments would be imposed on Oak Creek residents.
Affordable housing developments could also be constructed in Oak Creek, which has a conservative growth plan.
Taxes are the main concern for Oak Creek officials.
With the county seeking a new judicial facility and the city seeking funds for fire protection, Vangundy is concerned of a housing tax for Oak Creek residents.
Vangundy said it would be tough for Oak Creek residents to pay for an affordable housing development outside its city limits.
Town Trustee Ken Kien is skeptical of the authority and blames Steamboat Springs for creating this issue.
"If Steamboat would take care of this problem they created, our problems would disappear," Kien said.
Kien said because working people can't afford to live in Steamboat Springs, it has raised the cost of living in other municipalities in the county including Oak Creek.
"Residents don't want working people living in Steamboat Springs," Kien said. "It is disgusting. Working people need a chance to start out living there."
Antonucci said he understands Kien's frustration, but the county and the city are inviting other municipalities to help solve the problem.
"We are trying to be proactive," Antonucci said. "We realize our problems trickle down to everyone else around us. We are trying to be good neighbors, and see if you would like to be apart of this."
Once the authority is created, it would likely replace the Regional Affordable Living Foundation as the advocate for affordable housing in the Yampa Valley.
The difference between a housing authority and RALF is the authority would be able to levy taxes, issue tax-exempt revenue bonds and condemn land.
As the county and city continue working out the details of the authority, Oak Creek will be at the table, Vangundy said.
However, once the time comes to decide if Oak Creek will be a participating member of the housing authority, a public meeting will be held, Vangundy said.
The meeting in Oak Creek was the second stop county and city officials have made in pitching the authority.
Last week, the authority was introduced to Yampa officials and residents, who met the proposal with opposition and speculation the authority would bring low-income housing to the town.
County and city officials next stop is in front of the Hayden Town Board. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Hayden Town Hall.
After that meeting, the county, Steamboat and other municipalities that wish to participate will work on forming the authority and its boundaries, Stahoviak said.
Once the authority is created, the Two Plus Housing Committee is in favor of residents voting on two issues in November.
One issue would be an impact fee, which would result in a $1 charge imposed on every square foot of new construction.
The second issue would be a 1 mill property tax increase that would be levied within the authority's boundary.

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

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