Council likes housing project

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The City Council strongly supported preliminary plans for an affordable housing project on Hilltop Drive, despite objections raised by neighboring landowners.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council found few concerns with the Fox Creek project, which proposes 30 townhomes, at least half of which would be deed-restricted affordable-housing units.

The Regional Affordable Living Foundation, the applicant for the project, proposes five townhomes with six units each.

The council didn't have any problems with the four variances the project would need, including the narrowing of an 8-foot sidewalk to 6 feet in some places, a parking lot in the front of the building and closest to the street instead of in back, a dense 15-foot landscaping strip to mediate the parking lot and a variance from a 30-foot setback.

"This is a wonderful project; this is an example of good site development," Councilman Steve Ivancie said.

The discussion mostly revolved around allowing the project in an area that is zoned community commercial, a zoning district that allows residential development as a conditional use.

Two adjacent neighbors spoke out against the project, fearing the homes would take away from one commercial building and another proposed project that mixes residential and commercial use.

Dave Dooley, a nearby property owner, asked that the plan incorporate a thread of commercial with residential to keep the other sites viable.

"I would love this project if it just had enough commercial to give us a hair of a link to other commercial," he said.

Jacquie Lewis, who owns Australian Steamboat Connection next to the proposed project, said her business would become a commercial island.

Council members said the Fox Creek project would not negatively impact the commercial landowners and was allowable. Councilwoman Kathy Connell said some commercial space could even benefit from having housing nearby.

"I do think the intent of our code and of the community plan is exactly this. This kind of plan," she said.

Jim Engelken, who is a RALF board member, said the Fox Creek property is one of the last remaining pieces of land left for affordable housing in Steamboat Springs.

"What is it that the community needs more, affordable housing or commercial?" Engelken asked. "If you require a commercial component to this site, RALF could lose interest."

Councilman Ken Brenner said he supported the project but would like to see more density on the land and 100 percent of the units deed-restricted.

RALF plans to begin building the project this fall. RALF President Kathi Meyer said, after receiving positive feedback on the preliminary plan, the group can move forward with looking for a private developer to sign on as a partner in the project.

The private sector could be a critical factor in deciding how many of the units are deed-restricted, Meyer said. The board has not established how many units, if any, it wants to put on the free market, which could help subsidize the cost of the affordable housing units.

The board also will take names of those interested in the houses. The board has not determined how to choose the homeowners for the affordable units, but Meyer said priority could be given to mobile-home owners.

Almost all of the units have two bedrooms, two baths and 943 square feet with another 89 square feet of deck or storage space.

A summary RALF submitted to the city stated it is too early to give a price range, but the organization would be "disappointed if we could not bring to market these condominiums in the $150,000 to $175,000 range."

In other council business

n The City Council approved splitting $11,000 with Routt County for a parking study that will be used to look at a downtown judicial facility.

n The council approved the first reading of an ordinance to allow four free sample tastings of wine, beer and spirituous liquor at liquor stores.

n The council was supportive of the increase in traffic violation fines within the city. The increase raised fines from $15 a point to $25 a point. All fines in construction and school zones were doubled. The fine for not wearing a seat belt was increased from $15 to $50 for adults and $50 to $80 for children.

n The council discussed problems with wildlife in the city limits. The council discussed what could be done to discourage the animals from being in the area and how the public could be educated on the issue.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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