Flexibility added to west plan

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— With hopes of luring developers, the city and county have come up with a more flexible plan for the area west of Steamboat Springs.

On Wednesday night, county planners unveiled that change -- an updated draft of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

Planners started the update process in part because there have not been any annexation proposals since the plan was adopted in 1999. The changes also reflect the newer communitywide plan.

The updated draft gives developers more options.

Originally, the plan designated specific locations for certain land uses. The update allows developers to make decisions about types of housing and commercial spaces and their locations, county planner John Eastman said.

"Come forward with an action plan that meets the goals of this plan ... where the development goes and what it is, is really up to the developer," Eastman said.

Planners also eliminated a phasing map that determined when commercial development could be phased into the area. Instead, the only requirement -- outside of guidelines for quality development -- is that the area can be annexed into city limits.

Eastman said the change that people will notice most is a reduction in the amount of affordable housing that developers must build.

Originally, developers were required to include 33 percent affordable housing within their developments. Planners reduced that amount to 15 percent, a number recommended by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

The update also contains a definition of what "affordable" means: housing for families making 80 percent or less of Routt County's annual median income. Eastman said the annual median income for a family of four is about $72,700.

Elizabeth Black, director of the housing authority, said the change is meant to give developers room to come up with their own solutions for affordable housing. Also, developers who go beyond the 15 percent requirement will receive incentives such as reduced costs in other aspects of their developments.

"That's the kind of negotiation that we want," Black said.

Clay Stok asked Black and Eastman whether there would be enough affordable housing in the area.

"Do you think that this will be soaked up by second homes being bought?" he said.

Eastman said he did not see the west area as a temptation for second-home owners.

"Those folks, they want to be on the mountain or they want to be in Old Town. They've got a few more dollars," he said.

Stok said after the open house that he was concerned about the area west of Steamboat. His mother-in-law lives west of Steamboat, and he is uncertain about officials' goals for the land because their plan has changed so much.

Stok was worried that the changes didn't leave enough room for affordable housing.

"Is that what we're doing to our locals? At what cost, what sacrifices do we make?" he said.

Additional public meetings about the plan update include:

6 p.m. Oct. 6: The Routt County Planning Commission will discuss the draft in the county courthouse annex, 136 Sixth St.

Noon Oct. 10: Steam--boat Springs City Council members and Routt County com--missioners will discuss affordable housing in the county courthouse annex.

6 p.m. Oct. 13: The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will discuss the draft in Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

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