Steve Lewis: Payments in lieu editorial misses mark


I read the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition letter referenced in your Nov. 1 editorial. Their letter states they are putting their projects on hold until the city becomes a partner. My personal opinion, as a City Planning Commissioner, is that BARC had the city's partnership.

To be sure, the BARC development proposals are bringing significantly higher quality product to the base area. The "Wildhorse Meadows" and "One Steamboat Place" projects delivered on nearly every request we made. Some were substantial changes for them. They earned my respect. And we've given back. Those two proposals, particularly OSP, were granted profitable variances which allowed them greater height and scale. Part of that conversation stated those variances were meant as incentives to help redevelop the base area.

BARC's letter referenced the Affordable Housing Working Group. I'm a member of that group. I also sat on the 2004 Tax Policy Advisory Board. I'll remind BARC, as they criticize council's disagreement with the working group, that BARC members were delighted when the past council similarly disagreed with the tax board to approve the Local Marketing District. In my opinion, BARC's dismay is overstated.

What matters now is that BARC wants clearer terms in two areas. First is the capital and operational cost of the URA projects. Equitably assigning those costs is a prerequisite for URA project approvals. It's complicated to a level that precludes real community discussion, but other resorts have established fair examples.

The second area BARC spoke to is evolving regulations, specifically housing regulations which cost the developer. We've had community discussion on those issues. I thought there was broad support that such regulations are needed. I could be wrong. Unfortunately BARC's letter is so intent on criticizing council, they discard the possibility that council is correctly representing this community's wishes. I hope that this is only one step back, and not three.

On a more amusing note, consider the irony of the Pilot & Today titling its editorial: "Council must adopt rules and follow them," and therein read that the Pilot & Today is reversing its former views by endorsing Payment In Lieu. I searched "Payment In Lieu" on the Pilot & Today Web site and found three editorials where the Pilot & Today doubted PIL value:

Aug. 30 - "we need a clearer understanding of how the city will leverage such payments to create more affordable housing than would be built on site."

July 29 - "the payment in lieu option should produce a net gain in affordable housing and we haven't figured out how the city is going to do that." So, obviously, the Pilot & Today has now figured out how to turn $24,000 into an affordable housing unit?

And my favorite, on June 13 - "We certainly would not want to discourage any developer who wants to meet the 15 percent (on-site) requirement. That incentive can be addressed by making the payment-in-lieu alternative more expensive for the developer than it would be to meet the 15-percent requirement."

Your editorial criticizes council for "indecision" on payments in lieu. The reality is council has asked every project to build most or all the required affordable housing on site. Council has not kept its low opinion of payment in lieu a secret. In an Aug. 17 article, Council President Ken Brenner said, "I think our (PIL) calculation is wrong."

The shame of your editorial is that two weeks before, Councilman Towny Anderson wrote you 500-plus words about why "our current payment in lieu has no credibility in the inclusionary zoning debate."

Instead of writing a responsible reply, building on Towny's effort to add your part of a solution, the Pilot & Today chose to misrepresent facts, undermine city leadership, and flog this into a bigger problem.

Steve Lewis is a Steamboat Springs Planning Commission member.


Matthew Stoddard 10 years, 5 months ago

Well, since this said there was already 1 comment, I figured I actually put one in. I've been noticing that on a few threads lately. They say they have so many comments, yet they aren't there.


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