Until recently, I had assumed the City Council was a fair and unbiased body that was interested in upholding legal standards previous councils had implemented. After a year of watching continuing building moratoriums placed on targeted property at the request of a minority of vociferous neighbors with personal agendas, I begin to wonder.
The issue of affordable housing is one that has repeatedly appeared before council for the past four or five years. Previous councils have advocated support of residential density by maintaining a long-term standard zoning ordinance called Old Town Residential. And yet, in an area within the city limits known as Fairview, an area zoned OTR since 1993, a small group of individuals have demanded the city spend tax dollars to fund mediation of a dispute they created to challenge the ordinance.
In December 2005, the City Council spent $9,000 to hire a mediator to settle a neighborhood dispute. That mediation was unsuccessful because the original protagonists refused to consider any negotiations. I am one of the property owners who has been targeted by a small group of neighbors whose agendas seem to include overriding constitutional property rights by dictating building footprints in property they have neither financial, legal nor adjacent interests in. Wow. I feel affronted, harassed, and personally violated. It amazes me that the council continues to play games at the command of these few individuals. The cost in time and money has continued to mount. So far, it seems that the only ones who are investing money are City Council members using tax dollars and property owners trying to defend their rights against unwarranted attacks on standard building zones. The instigators of the dispute want everyone else to foot their bill.
It looks like the council has two possible courses of action. They can leave the zoning in place, consistent with zoning throughout city limits or impose spot-zoning targeting five or six property owners, some of whom already have deed restrictions on their properties. Spot zoning creates a legal hazard zone. Throughout Colorado, spot zoning is being struck down as illegal. How much higher will the financial tab run on behalf of a small group of people? Does the City Council really want to provoke prolonged, expensive legal battles about dubious, ill-advised solutions such as spot zoning?
I think it's time City Council makes a commitment to protect the legal interests of its citizens by practicing what it preaches: consideration of short and long-term goals while providing reasonable building density for continual growth in Steamboat. Leave the zoning as is, remove the building moratorium, and stop wasting taxpayer money and time. Restrictive spot zoning sends a confusing message to citizens who are trying to find realistic alternatives to a severe affordable housing crisis in Steamboat.