Council discusses area plan

Mobile-home ordinance also to be discussed Tuesday

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On Tuesday night, the City Council will hold two discussions: one on the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and the other on the city's mobile-home ordinance.

The two might have more in common than sharing agenda space. One could be part of the solution for the other.

The two items are not intended to be discussed together, but the success of the West of Steamboat plan, which stipulates that one-third of all future units built be affordable, could play a large role in providing a place for mobile homes.

"There are areas that would lend themselves to mobile sections," Yampa Valley Affordable Housing Authority President Kathi Meyer said of west Steamboat.

On their own, the two issues will generate plenty of discussion.

Mobile-home owners are pushing the city to pass an ordinance that will give them more protections if a park owner decides to sell the park.

In a memo to the council, City Attorney Tony Lettunich advised against enacting an ordinance that would require owners to pay tenants who are forced to relocate.

For the west of Steamboat plan, the council intends to look at three issues that have been sticking points since the plan was adopted 4 1/2 years ago: a mandate to require east to west development, a mill levy to cover added city costs for new development and the role of special districts in building infrastructure in the area.

A review of the mobile-home ordinance was sparked by a developer's proposal to replace the West Haven trailer park with new townhomes and commercial buildings -- a plan that would displace 39 mobile homes and more than 100 residents.

Residents of the mobile-home park said they would like the developer, Jim Cook, to compensate them for the value of their homes, many of which are too old to move into other parks.

Cook said a relocation package is being considered, but he has not said what it would include.

Under the city's mobile-home ordinance, park owners must present a conversion impact report to the city if they intend to redevelop the land. The owners also need to get a conditional-use permit to change the use from a mobile-home park.

The ordinance, created in the wake of the loss of Trailer Haven, did not require park owners to find or pay for new land for the displaced mobile-home owners. Instead, the ordinance asks developers to make their "best efforts" when mobile-home owners are being displaced. Developers are asked to give mobile-home owners a list of the available mobile sites within a 50-mile radius.

"When we did this ordinance 2 1/2 years ago, we knew we weren't giving mobile-home owners any guarantees with their property," City Council President Paul Strong said.

Bobbi Hodge, who has spoken before the Colorado Legislature on mobile-home rights, is among those asking the city to strengthen its stance on the issue. She has four items she would like to see incorporated into the ordinance:

n No net loss of affordable housing when parks are converted to other uses, by requiring affordable housing to be built somewhere else in the city.

n Tenants given the right to buy the park first if the owner wishes to sell the land.

n Mobile-home owners receiving assistance in financing the purchase of land with the help of the Multi-Jurisdictional Housing Authority.

n The city requiring park owners to maintain the property so it is safe and not an eyesore.

"Steamboat Springs must strike a deliberate balance between the jobs it creates and appropriate housing for the people required to fill these jobs. Otherwise, the heart and soul will be alive and well in Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig," Hodge said.

In his memo to the council, Lettunich warned there could be expensive legal consequences for the city if it forced park owners to pay for relocation expenses.

"The city would be doing so without state-enabling support and would likely face an expensive uphill battle to defend such an ordinance against probable attack by mobile-home park owners," the memo stated.

Instead of a new ordinance, Lettunich recommended encouraging the affordable-housing authority to help facilitate deals between the park owner or developer and the park tenants.

Meyer sees the authority as being part of the long-term solution to the mobile-home ordinance.

As land once considered marginal -- near the railroad tracks or in the Yampa River floodplain, for example -- becomes increasingly attractive for redevelopment, more mobile-home parks are disappearing. In the city limits, seven mobile-home parks house 382 units, or 5.4 percent of the city's housing stock.

Many of the units house people in the low- to moderate-income bracket who are a critical part of the city's work force.

"It is a kind of perfect storm of all sorts of factors," Meyer said.

Meyer sees the housing authority playing a role in developing new mobile-home parks where the land can be owned by the homeowners or rented and managed by the authority.

A logical area for such development is west of Steamboat.

"We need to provide an opportunity for them to own the land or own the mobile-home park," Meyer said.

Strong said landowners in the area have discussed the possibility of building mobile-home parks.

But there are many other concerns with the West of Steamboat plan, which has seen just one development built since its adoption.

Some landowners in the area would prefer to begin development on the west edge of the area, next to Silver Spur, because it could hook into that development's infrastructure.

The city has balked at the idea of starting in the west because if the developed land is then annexed into the city, it would create a gap between it and the existing city limits and make it more difficult to provide city services.

Another issue is the plan's original requirement to have new homeowners pay a mill levy for city services.

"There was always concern that different residents of the city have different rates," Strong said. "And also this is an area where affordable houses are supposed to be."

The council also is expected to talk about special districts, which would spread the cost among developers of bringing infrastructure into the undeveloped area.

Strong doubts final decisions will be made on either issue Tuesday, but both discussions will be a chance for the council to gather new information.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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