Fox Creek moving ahead

Affordable housing project receives positive feedback

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The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission gave favorable feedback Thursday to a plan that could provide 15 to 30 deed-restricted affordable homes on Hilltop Parkway.

In a pre-application hearing, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation came before Planning Commission with plans for five buildings with six units each. The foundation would like to break ground on the project, Fox Creek Village, in the fall.

Adjacent property owners raised objection to the project, saying it does not fit in the community commercial zoning area. Jacquie Lewis, who owns the neighboring Australia Steamboat Connection building, said her property could become an island of commercial use surrounded by residential. She urged the city to consider targeting the site for mixed-use with commercial and residential development.

"What that would do is define a transition between highway up to residential area," she said.

Planning Commission members agreed with the applicants, saying the zone encouraged a mix of commercial, retail, office, lodging and residential uses.

"This site is in walking distances from a lot of amenities. It is a good site for affordable housing," Planning Commissioner Dick Curtis said. "I really don't believe this would detract from any future commercial business."

As planned, the project would need four variances to allow a 6-foot instead of an 8-foot sidewalk, a parking lot in the front of the buildings and closest to the street, a dense 15-foot landscaping strip to mediate the parking lot and a variance from a 30-foot setback.

Most of the planning commissioners were supportive of the variances requested.

Thursday was not the first time the Planning Commission had seen plans for the site. In January, RALF came before the board with plans for 36 units, 17 of which would be for self-help housing.

In that pre-application hearing, the Planning Commission members said they would not be willing to accept the plan if it was re-presented without any changes. Commissioners were concerned with a lack of trail connections, the orientation of the buildings, lack of detailed architecture drawings, landscaping and variances for setbacks.

RALF was limited in the design because almost half of the site was intended for the self-help housing program, in which owners build their homes.

In the second go-around, RALF scrapped the self-help housing component, but said the homes were intended for workforce housing.

"This is a much better proposal than the last one," Planning Commissioner Tracey Barnett said. "It doesn't seem so cookie-cutterish to me. It seems more spacious, more livable."

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

RALF has the land under contract, pending the approval to build, and intends to seek a private developer who would be a joint-venture partner or general contractor to build the project.

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

The summary also stated the organization, which eventually could hand over the ownership to the Yampa Valley Regional Housing Authority, intends to work with tenants of the soon-to-be-redeveloped Westland Trailer Park and other mobile-home parks to see if Fox Creek Village could be an alternative.

RALF members do not know how many units will be under deed restrictions until a joint-venture partner and federal, state and local grants are finalized. At least half of the units are expected to have some restrictions.

The restrictions could include limiting buyers to Routt County residents making no more than 80 percent to 100 percent of the median income. A down-payment assistance program similar to the one used in West End Village also could be part of the project.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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