West of Steamboat Springs plan a go

Group raises affordable-housing requirement to 20 percent


— More than a year after Routt County and Steamboat Springs started working on revising the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, it has been adopted.

It passed with many minor and a few major changes during the 4 1/2-hour meeting Monday night involving 19 elected and appointed Routt County and Steamboat Springs officials.

Adoption of the plan means city and county officials have a source of reference for what the community's vision is for hundreds of acres of land where 1,100 to 2,600 residences could be built. It provides a tool for community officials and developers who could build on the site.

The joint meeting was made up of Routt County Planning Commission members and county commissioners, in addition to Steamboat Springs City Council and Planning Commission members.

The last-minute changes to the plan were tedious, but the meeting went relatively smoothly as the group went through each of the six chapters. That is, until Chapter 4, when the issue of an affordable-housing requirement came up for discussion.

The previous West of Steamboat plan, which was adopted in 1999, included a 33 percent affordable-housing requirement, which many people blame for the lack of development.

"I think if you create a plan like that again, you'll have the same results," Mary Brown told the group.

Mary and Steve Brown own 540 acres, or 85 percent of the land identified in the West of Steamboat plan.

The plan Monday called for 15 percent affordable housing at a price averaging what a family of four could afford with 90 percent of the area's average median income.

During public input, some people said the amount of affordable housing in the plan does not adequately address the need.

"The existing residents get nothing out of this but a bigger city," said Steamboat resident Jim Engelken, a former council member who worked on the 1999 plan.

Diane Mitsch Bush made a motion to raise the level to 25 percent with new homeowners earning 80 percent of the average median income. Each of the 19 people in attendance spoke -- some emotionally -- about whether he or she would support increasing the affordable-housing requirement.

Council President Ken Bren--ner talked about single-family home prices in Steamboat as a reason to support a higher affordable requirement.

"These are homes that none of us can afford," Brenner said. "We're talking about us. This is a no-brainer."

County Commissioner Doug Monger said the land has been undeveloped for too long and that a high affordable requirement would continue to scare potential developers.

"I just hope to hell that we can get something going tonight," he said.

The motion to increase the affordable requirement to 25 percent failed, 10-9.

A new motion called for a 20-percent requirement with new homeowners earning 80 percent of the average median income.

That motion passed, 16-3. The plan still sets a goal for one-third of the housing to be affordable.

The group voted to include language in the plan that said the community would "develop and adopt an incentive matrix that will help increase the percentage of affordable housing from the minimum requirement to the planned goal."

The entire plan won the approval of the four committees with a total vote of 17-2.

Council member Paul Strong voted to adopt the plan, but he expressed concerns.

"I have some concerns that we are going to see more time go by without affordable housing being built," he said.

Mary Brown said she was disappointed that the affordable requirement was changed at the last minute.

"I'm pleased that all four boards approved the plan, but I'm concerned about the changes they made this evening," Brown said. "It's a significant change from the plan that has been discussed for the past year."

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com


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