Tony Connell: Clearing up West End misconceptions

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I would like to respond to Rick Bear's letter, which creates an air of confusion and misinformation about the development and sales of West End Village.

Had Bear ever contacted me, I could have provided the following information, but it obviously was not his intent to understand the success of the project or he would have done the proper research.

First -- the market rate sale of the lots at West End Village was the critical component of the project, allowing the development to go forward so that 24 families, 14 duplex buyers and eight self-help housing owners could purchase their deed restricted homes in Steamboat. The key to reducing risk and cost of any development includes quick delivery of the lots and a reduction of carrying costs through rapid sales. Everyone benefited from the sales of the market rate lots, as the business model had intended. Kathi Meyer and her husband Jim Peterson understood the importance of having market rate lots fully integrated and next door to deed-restricted lots as seamlessly as possible. Their lot sits across the street from a self-help program duplex.

Second -- the insinuation that Meyer and Bud Romberg took affordable housing opportunities out of someone's hands is political posturing in its worst form. Where are Bear and like-minded champions of affordable housing today, when they still can buy single-family lots for $75,000 that allow a primary residence and a caretaker apartment for rental income and additional affordable inventory for local residents? Today we have a number of free market lots available, well under other prices in the city.

The sooner these are sold, the quicker the community can see the model can be successful for something other than $1,000,000 to $10,000,000 homes.

Third -- perhaps the critics or naysayers of market rate purchasers feel it is a bad investment because I require buyers to sign a five-year right-of-first refusal to keep land speculators without intention of providing housing out of the market. This right allows me to buy back the lot at virtually the same price it originally was sold for.

Meyer, Romberg and other market rate purchasers understand and get it. I wanted to keep away short-term speculators and reward long-term believers. In my opinion this has worked. Free market lots have sold to a few buyers with goals of rental income or future house sales, but for the most part the lots have sold to local workers including government workers, educators and many small-business owners.

Meyer and the few other buyers who have come forward took a leap of faith that West End Village would be a model neighborhood combining free-market and deed-restricted housing. Their understanding -- judgment, if you will -- came from working for years on affordable housing and helping to shape a neighborhood like West End Village. In the process, she helped to create affordable housing for more than 100 people.

It is unfortunate some people would use this project's success for political sword rattling. There is no excuse for not checking for the facts and truth.

Vote Nov. 4 for action and results, not misinformation and never-ending politics.

Tony Connell

Connell LLC, Steamboat Springs

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