Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council is ready to change the inclusionary zoning ordinance.
The council's denial Tuesday night of the revised housing plan for One Steamboat Place, a base area, mixed-use development project, not only set a high standard for the inclusion of affordable housing in future residential developments in Steamboat, but also shined a light on flaws in the inclusionary zoning ordinance that regulates affordable housing.
A primary flaw, council members said, is the city's fee in lieu calculation, which requires developers to pay the city $24,102 for every required affordable housing unit that is not included in a development.
"I have yet to meet anyone in this town who can parlay $24,000 into a housing unit," City Council President Ken Brenner said. "So that's a big Achilles' heel right away. Without some very deliberate action by the council, we will not see anyone who works at the base area live anywhere near the base area."
A change to the calculation that created the $24,102 figure could occur in the coming months.
"We'll be discussing this some more," Brenner said. "There's a lot of concern with the fee in lieu calculation."
The city's inclusionary zoning ordinance mandates that any new development allocate 15 percent of its residential units for deed-restricted affordable housing. Developers can propose a fee-in-lieu payment instead of building the affordable housing units.
Brenner recently met with housing officials in Aspen. He said in that resort community, fee-in-lieu payments for one unit can exceed $300,000. In Boulder, fee-in-lieu payments exceed $40,000 per housing unit, according to a Boulder Housing Authority official who met with the City Council last month.
"What is very obvious is that this takes money," Brenner said.
While the council and community members commented about fee-in-lieu payments during Tuesday's council meeting, One Steamboat Place Project Director Jim Wells sat in the audience at Centennial Hall and waited for his turn. Wells was involved in the last item on Tuesday's agenda, a revised housing plan for One Steamboat Place that asked the city to accept $418,772 in lieu of developers including affordable housing in the development.
After hearing the discussions, Wells changed the housing plan on the spot and proposed a new "hybrid" plan with four affordable units on site.
"I'm hearing that you strongly believe some of the units should be in the building," Wells said. "So let's try it out. Let's be the guinea pig. Let's put four affordable units in the building."
One Steamboat Place is a residential and commercial development planned for a 4-acre site at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, adjacent to the ski area's gondola building and AprÃs Ski Way.
The approved development plan includes 85 residential units, more than 15,000 square feet of commercial space and a large, public plaza.
But the council has not yet approved a housing plan for One Steamboat Place. Approval is needed for construction to begin. Timbers Company President David Burden said Tuesday night that his company is "committed to Steamboat Springs" and will "work something out."
Should the council raise the fee-in-lieu calculation, the higher per-unit price would apply to One Steamboat Place, should a fee-in-lieu option be approved for the project.
The payment amount would be determined by conditions of the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance at the time One Steamboat Place draws a building permit, which could occur in spring 2007 or later.
Wells said he expects the city's fee-in-lieu price to "at least double" by next spring.
Council member Towny Anderson said the price would have to rise for fees-in-lieu to work.
"As soon as $24,000 came out, payment in lieu was dead in the water," Anderson said.