West End Village and good judgment
Judgment. There is good judgment, there is bad judgment and sometimes there is really bad judgment.
Kathi Meyer, a Steamboat Springs City Council candidate, has talked and advertised extensively that she is an advocate for affordable housing and has served for several years on the Regional Affordable Living Foundation Board of Directors. As a board member of RALF and as chairwoman of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, she has access to information in a timely fashion.
When the lots in West End Village -- Steamboat Springs' first affordable housing project in which residents could purchase the homes -- became available for purchase, Meyer chose to invest. While the duplex lot she purchased was not a deed-restricted lot, it was part of the overall project, created and intended for entry-level, and/or first-time home-buyers ($42,500 per side), not for real estate speculation.
Making money off smart investments is good business. I don't deny she made a good investment. I am more concerned with the propriety of this investment decision by an appointed city official, especially one who clearly does not match the intended buyer profile.
Add her connection to this project from the start as chairwoman of the Planning Commission and board member of RALF, and it really starts to make me feel uneasy.
But my comfort level with someone else's investment habits is not the point, is it? My real concern is this -- Is this the kind of judgment and character that we can expect from our leaders, or should we expect more?
By the way, Council member Bud Romberg bought one, too. Again, this lot was clearly intended for a working family, rather than an investment by a City Council member's family. Neither of these lots was on the market for very long, so it wasn't a matter of "nobody else wants them. ... I'll help the project out by buying one."
Don't get me wrong, I'll never deny, nor under-appreciate, either candidate's willingness to contribute his or her time and energy to our community. But aren't there more appropriate places to profit than by eliminating buying opportunities intended for the "affordable housing" market? While lip service is one thing, one's actions speak volumes. Do we deserve better? You decide. Vote Nov. 4.
It is my understanding that the question has been raised as to the propriety of a family partnership, of which I am a part, owning a parcel in West End Village.
West End Village has an affordable housing component, but in order to make affordable the half of the lots that are listed as affordable, the other half are market rate lots available for anyone to buy. My family and I bought one of these lots several months ago and paid full asking price for it. This is a matter of public record.
It is unfortunate that this issue is raised just a few days before the election, which might seem to call my ethics into question. But my record is clean, as anyone who has followed my public career during 10 1/2 years on the School Board, three years on the city Planning Commission and four years on the City Council can attest.
I have served the residents of this community in a wide variety of volunteer positions for the 37 years we have lived here, and to suggest impropriety is unjustified.
Here are the facts about my involvement with West End Village.
In the six years on Planning Commission, I have participated in public hearings on roughly 300 projects. In all those years, I have stepped down only once because of a conflict or an appearance of a conflict, and that was Nov. 16, 2000, when West End Village had its public hearing at the Planning Commission. During the 3 1/2 years it took to take West End Village from permit approval to reality, the Steamboat Pilot & Today ran almost 40 articles about the progress and success of this project. Because of the efforts of RALF, the developer and others, the West End Village has gone from dream to reality. I am proud of my service on the city Planning Commission and on the RALF Board.
Fifty percent of all the lots created at West End Village were deed restricted by RALF, and the other half were offered at free market rates by the contractor/developer, Connell LLC.
My husband and I chose to invest in West End Village because the successful sale of the market rate lots is critical for the overall success of the project. There are still market rate lots available for sale.
All of the deed-restricted RALF lots went to the very market for which they were intended: residents making a set maximum income level. And those restrictions will stay in place upon resale, based on deed restrictions placed on those lots by RALF.
My husband and I paid full list price and made our investment on the same terms available to the general public. We neither asked for nor received any special consideration. We closed on our lot in April 2003, months after they were listed for public purchase.
Our purchase was printed in the newspaper under Real Estate Transactions. We have not purchased the lot for purposes of speculation. There is a restriction on our lot that says the developer can buy the lot back at our original cost.
We believe in the long-term dream that this neighborhood will be the first of its kind to make affordable housing a reality in Steamboat. So we have made a long-term financial commitment to the neighborhood, and we put our money where our mouths were. Our intent is to build a duplex that we will rent to residents unable to afford RALF lots but who still want to be part of this wonderful new neighborhood.
The West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan requires that 30 percent of all the housing units are affordable. The only way that will be accomplished is if the 70 percent portion of market rate lots can subsidize the overall development costs, and if those lots are successfully sold in the marketplace.
I am and will continue to be an advocate for affordable housing in our community.
Kathi Meyer and Jim Peterson