Boards agree to changes

Council members, commissioners discuss west of Steamboat plan

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The Steamboat Springs City Council and Routt County commissioners agreed to change some key components of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan as they began to answer how far they were willing to go to make the plan work.

In a joint meeting Tuesday night, the two boards decided to no longer institute a $720 a year annual fee that new homeowners would have to pay for city services. The boards also said they would be willing to allow more flexibility in the plan with regard to where, how much and what kind of development could occur.

The two entities also had a list of items they were not ready to decide on: the affordable housing requirement, city and county sharing the cost of the increase in services of new development and whether development should occur east to west.

Despite the unanswered questions, the elected officials were clear that they wanted to begin the process of updating the plan and finding solutions that would spur development in the area.

"The longer we delay the process, the more expensive the land is going to get and the more pent up the demand is going to be," Councilman Loui Antonucci said. "The sooner we can get development in west of Steamboat, the easier it is going to be to create some affordable housing."

One of the most significant changes the two boards made was dropping the $720 annual charge on new units for city services. The charge was put in the original plan so new development would not be an added burden to the city's expenses, but questions have been raised about its fairness.

"Why charge the west of Steamboat area something we won't charge within our own boundaries?" Councilman Ken Brenner said. "As much as it is a good concept, I am not sure it is beneficial to moving the plan forward."

In exchange for dropping the annual fee, the council and commissioners agreed they would have to find a way to cover the added costs to provide services to those areas. Even if the new development is annexed into the city limits, City Manager Paul Hughes said, the county might want to put a percentage of the property tax collected from the new development to help service it. The county's contribution would help the transition between services in the area being funded through county property taxes and city sales taxes.

"All of this points to what resources are the city and county willing to commit to get development out in the west of Steamboat area," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said via telephone.

One of the most pressing issues for discussion is whether the plan should lower the requirement that new developments should have one-third of their units as affordable housing.

Council members and commissioners said they wanted more information about what other communities have set for their affordable housing requirements.

Landowner Mary Browns said the one-third affordable housing requirement is the most restrictive one she has heard of in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Arizona.

"If you are clinging to the fact the only reason to develop (in west Steamboat) is to get affordable housing, I think you are going to have 30 percent of nothing for a long time," Brown said.

The board did agree that affordable housing units could be built in separate neighborhoods than market rate units and that the requirements would not apply to development within the existing city limits.

Another unanswered question Tuesday night was the two boards' philosophy on whether development had to occur east to west. The city and county have long held to the belief that the land within the plan's boundaries should be developed east to west, so that the city could grow outward from its existing border and more easily extend its services.

Landowners have objected to this theory, thinking it makes more sense to develop close to the Sliver Spur and Steamboat II development, where infrastructure is already in place.

"We really need to take a look at the impact of that," Connell said of east to west development. "I am not convinced something in the future won't need to be annexed."

The boards agreed to have the city and county planning departments start researching changes to the plan. With the Mountain Town Sub Area update and the growth commission, City Planning Director Steve Stamey said his staff would be pressed to find time to work on the west of Steamboat plan until this summer.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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