Real estate agents protest ordinance

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— Real estate companies that want sales space on the pedestrian level of two zoning districts in the city will have to successfully complete a review process.

The City Council voted 6-0 this week to approve an ordinance that includes several changes to the Community Development Code, including one that drew protest from real estate agents.

The amended ordinance means real estate offices cannot occupy pedestrian-level spaces in two districts without going though a process called a conditional-use review, and the City Council can deny the application.

The council approved the ordinance last week but voted to revisit the issue Tuesday because a computer glitch held up 11 protest e-mails before the original vote.

On Tuesday, some council members asked fellow member Loui Antonucci not to participate in the vote because of a perceived conflict of interest. Antonucci is a partner in Old Town Realty.

Council member Paul Strong said he didn't think Antonucci had a conflict of interest because he wouldn't gain or lose anything in the vote. Members Steve Ivancie, Towny Anderson and council President Ken Brenner, however, said there was the possibility of a perceived conflict of interest, so Antonucci stepped out of the room.

Planning Director Tom Lee--son told the council that the ordinance clarifies the intention of the Community Development Code. When it was adopted in 2001, he said, the definition of "office" was meant to include real estate businesses.

"We're not singling out real estate; it is any type of office," Leeson said.

Dennis O'Connor, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, told the council he disagreed.

"It is not fair to punish the people in the industry," he said.

O'Connor said real estate sales spaces belong on the pedestrian level because they generate traffic for other businesses, such as restaurants and retail shops.

Jon Wade, who is with Colo--rado Group Realty, asked the council to table the reading of the ordinance so real estate agents could meet with council members to come up with a solution.

Strong said he supported the ordinance but was willing to table reading it to allow Main Street Steamboat Springs to review it. Strong and Kevin Kaminski voted in support of tabling the ordinance.

Anderson was among those who wanted to conduct the second reading.

"I feel very, very confident that we made the right decision the last time around," he said.

Brenner said the perception that the ordinance singles out real estate businesses was unfounded.

"The intent of this ordinance is simply to treat everyone the same," he said.

O'Connor said Thursday that he was disappointed because it seemed as though the council didn't bother to pay attention to real estate agents' thoughts Tuesday.

"They already had their minds made up," O'Connor said. "That's the opposite of having an open and public government."

Given the council's attention to agents at the meeting, O'Connor said, he doubted they would give much consideration during conditional-use review.

"A conditional use is effectively a ban at this time," he said.

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