A base of criticism

Group recommends redevelopment projects be put 'on hold'

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The community housing plan for One Steamboat Place at the base of the ski area was denied Oct. 17 by City Council. A group of base area investors and property owners has recommended that all redevelopment projects at the base of Steamboat Ski Area be put "on hold."

— A group of base area investors and property owners is recommending that all redevelopment projects at the base of Steamboat Ski Area be put "on hold."

In a sharply critical letter sent to City Council members Friday, seven members of the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition said a "confusing application of inclusionary zoning regulations" and an "increasingly unpredictable, arbitrary and inflexible regulatory environment" are contrary to the original intent of the Urban Renewal Authority. The City Council created the URA in 2005 to raise money for public improvements around the ski area base.

"The recent actions of (City) Council provide little evidence that the city is willing to create the public-private partnership that was envisioned when we first championed the idea of an Urban Renewal Authority for the ski base area," the letter reads. "Given this situation, we feel it's time to take a step back, put all URA projects on hold, and see if we can resolve a number of significant public policy and process issues."

The letter is signed by Chris Diamond, president of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.; developers Whitney Ward and Brent Pearson of Resort Ventures West, the driving force behind the Wildhorse Meadows and One Steamboat Place developments; David Baldinger Jr., a Torian Plum Plaza property owner; Jim Wells, Timbers Company executive and project director for One Steamboat Place; Jack Ferguson, owner of Mount Werner Lodge; and base area property owner James Temple.

At a meeting Oct. 17, the council denied the community housing plan for One Steamboat Place, a 440,000-square-foot, mixed-use development planned for a four-acre site at the base of the ski area. Council members at the meeting asked Wells to include more affordable housing units in the development, rather than paying the city a "fee in lieu" that would fund affordable housing units at another location.

Base area redevelopment also has stalled due to a lack of a permanent source of revenue for future maintenance costs related to base area projects.

The coalition presented its letter, and the recommendation to place redevelopments on hold, to the Urban Redevelopment Authority Advisory Committee at a committee meeting Friday.

"URAAC took no position with respect to their letter," committee co-chair George "Bud" Romberg said Monday. "I think the discussion as a whole was based on the idea that nobody wants to see the progress on the URA stop."

Joe Kracum, coordinator of base area redevelopment, said he plans to continue work.

"We didn't get a direction to stop the design," he said Monday. "We're continuing on with the design documents for the next two years. I maybe see this (letter) as more of a detour than a roadblock. I think everybody needs to sit down and talk about things."

That conversation may begin Nov. 7, when the City Council is scheduled for an hour-long work session to discuss URA issues.

"I think it would be appropriate to meet with (coalition) members then, to try to answer their questions and have a dialogue," City Council President Ken Brenner said. "Our job is to balance the competing interests in our community."

The council, which does not meet this week, has a work session to address affordable housing issues scheduled for Nov. 28.

Comments

yeahbo 7 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like they ( the money boys) are whining because they have to build affordable housing for the people at the base of our mountain. And they're going to pout ,threaten and run away because they didn't get their way. Brenner is correct, talk, and balance the competing interests in the community. Don't pull away from the table.

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John Rezzonico 7 years, 8 months ago

First off, I am all for affordable housing in Steamboat, but on the other hand I do not agree that the base of the resort is the place for it. Remember it is a resort; I would love to live on the beach, but for me that is out of the question as well. That doesn't mean I couldn't live 5 miles away from the water and still live the beach life. I guess to sum it all up we need to remember that base area locations warrant the highest quality of projects that will hopefully result in more business for our town and make our resort that much more attractable to tourism, the life blood of our town. So build affordable housing, but we need to be reasonable and remember that someone complaining that it is not fair they can not affordably live at the base of a ski resort is being unrealistic themselves. Do you live there? Most people I know who truly love this Valley live here for many more reasons then the mountain and would rather be located slightly outside of town away from the mountain. Hey, there is always SST, free transportation to the best powder in the world :)

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 8 months ago

If the City Council continues to meddle in the free market we will certainly have affordable housing in the base area. Just think what a condo will go for in this community if the base area continues to deteriorate and no new developments occur. Skier numbers will spiral to well below the million mark as we lose any ability to compete with ski areas that invite capitol projects into their communities without overburdening socialistic type "housing tax" agendas. If you trully want affordable housing and a return to what Steamboat was like 30 years ago, just keep running the developers out of town and allow the ski area to decay until it can't turn a profit.

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highmountain 7 years, 8 months ago

It is overdue for the groups involved in the redevelopment of our base area to take a stand against the disorganized and ineffective City Council. City Councils' lack of leadership has been tolerated with the tennis bubble and community center fiascos but the base area directly impacts the entire community today, tomorrow and the future. The health of the ski area is tantamount to the health of the community. If you disagree drive over to Walden, great vistas, rivers, environment but no ski industry! City council should be removed from the base area redevelopment processes as they are focussed on the wrong issues and do not fully comprehend the significance. It is evident our City Council is only cabable of focussing on one issue, affordable housing. This being the case they should revisit the west area plan as here lies the answers to housing supplies.

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another_local 7 years, 8 months ago

Affordable housing is a very important issue in our long term community health. That affordable housing should also be in stable, year round neighborhoods that promote community. A few scattered, small, deed restricted, condos in the middle of a high end development will never provide that neighborhood dynamic. Families with children will never want to live there.

Our current council, lead by Ken B is pursuing a misguided agenda when they insist that the affordable units need to be integrated project by project.

The large scale developers could work with other builders to provide neighborhood type developments. Council could zone those areas for NO nightly rentals. Build them in sizes and configurations that will encourage local family ownership.

Another idea might be for the big developers to buy up some of the old 70's condos that are on the market, upgrade them and then sell them on a deed restricted basis to be managed by the housing authority. The developers have the cash and resources to do the work. The community would get more affordable units and upgraded old housing stock. If One Steamboat Place needs to provide 14 deed restricted units to satisfy the development requirements, how about buying up, fixing up and then selling 28 existing units in places like Shadow Run or Walton. Change the rules on those units so they have to be owner occupied. Or...

There are a lot of good ways to handle this problem, but presenting a moving target to developers by changing the rules on them from week to week is not one of them.

We collectively depend upon our tourism business. The building trade is also very important to our economic health. Do we really want to put all of this on hold for year until we get a more consistent and professional behaving council? Our current city leadership is not doing a good job for us.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

Comments about free markets in Steamboat Springs demonstrate a lack of knowledg of fundamental economics. A free housing maket does not exist in Steamboat Springs. One of the few defensible roles of government is to redress the inequities that result from a lack of free market. A real free housing market in Steamboat Springs would lead to local social behavior that no business or condominium owner or developer would care to face. Thus, the City Council has an public interest obligation to address resort employee income, transportation and housing realities, an obligation based on a better understanding of economics than I've yet seen diplayed in the community. Sorry, folks, you just can't get poor people to pay for everything, despite your best efforts.

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 8 months ago

Economist, Lets see what you say; "goverment obilgation", "redress inequalities", "can't get poor people to pay". So, where did you study economics, at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena? Please induldge me by elaborating further on your statement that, "a real free housing market in Steamboat Springs would lead to local social behavior that no business or condominium owner or developer would care to face."

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

to Hadleyburg press - Fichte would have been a flattering pick for your ad hominen response, as well.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

To steamboat pilot - sure, in a free market, which doesn't exist in Steamboat Springs, using neo-classical theory, which is a very powerful conceptual method in general but not very elegant for understanding housing issues (perhaps you could try public economics, for a start, as this is a public issue, if you insist on misusing the discipline). Don't fret about about greedy people leaving Steamboat any time soon. They won't.

To Hadleyburg press - 1) no, that would have been interesting. Among other places, New School for my appreciation of the incrediably diverse methods and perspectives available to economists developing their skills. Neo-classical approaches provide very narrow perspectives that don't go far in dealing with real people or real social problems. Try others as well. Not all problems fix themselves easily, not even according to neo-classical economics. 2) I have no interest in indulging you. Try to figure out the consequences on your own - you can use only neo-classical models if you want (don't limit yourself to the 500 sectors that Leontief did), the results are just as ugly and harmful to the long term social welfare of Steamboat. That's not a threat - it's an attempt to get local people to realize that social choices purportedly (and usually falsely) based on economics can actually hurt the real people who make our livestyles possible.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

steamboat pilot - Regardless of what it sounds like, public economics is a specialized social science that studies and develops methods of understanding and exploring public issues that affect an entire community, not just private consumption or small business. Communism is an ideology, not a scientific study, and it has the same institutional weakness as any ideology - it's too rigid, for one. Economics is silent on a choice of ideology, though mine is not communism. If they were the same, you could accuse Hadleyburg Press of communism, which might cause great surprise and disagreement.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but Routt County does not have a free housing market either. Saying it does doesn't make it true (nor does saying it doesn't but I hope people will bother to do their own quality research and maybe some napkin math and give themselves some real information (not from a newspaper) if they really want to know how things work). Oh, and don't you want employees close to their work, or do you like snarled traffic, air pollution, traffic accidents and no houseless scenery? You're entitled to your opinion and it frankly doesn't sound out of sync with a lot of what I hear. My only reason for being on this comment blog is that I don't appreciate people using economics as a false justification for their opinions or agressively hurtful behavior, so I may point it out if and when they do. It's about personal accountability for your own behavior and treatment of others. Perhaps we can agree on that?

You can chose your friends, but not your community. We're all stuck near people we don't like or disagree with. That doesn't mean we can't bite the bullet and make larger hard choices for and with our community, choices other than what to do to make our own lives better, often at the indirect expense of others.

Congratulations on making your life work, though, really. I agree that's hard enough without someone taking some of the resources you call yours away for no good reason. That doesn't mean that you don't have to pay taxes for services that you receive but may not realize.

Last, the BLM is part of the Deptment of Interior, while national forest is managed by the Department of Agriculture - two different federal agencies. If you can get the BLM to donate 1,000 acres of USDA managed forest land (how about the area immediately north and adjacent to the ski area - right in view of all the skiers and condo owners) for affordable housing, I'm all for it. I'll even sign your petition or follow your letter to the BLM with one of my own. I like your thinking.

Oh, and I'm not a boy.

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 8 months ago

No ad hominem attack here economist. I was just pointing out that your holistic economic approach had variables of Marxist social engineering. I hate to break it to you, but social engineering isn't really a science or engineering. That would require some real math skill. Do you still refuse to back up your "cause and effect" statement with tangible determinations? What are the negative outcomes that you perceive in a real free market sans goverment interference? You mention pollution from transit? What happens when this situation eventually leads to a light rail system? I would suggest that as you go down the path of logic you try to evaluate your outcomes to a factor of 3 minimum. I feel as though you are stuck at the first emotional effect of your cause. Maybe I am wrong and you are attempting to establish a harmonious outcome for all mankind. The only flaw in that line of thinking is that it involves humans...

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

Hadleyburg_Press

Marxism is not economics. Is this a common strategy that you and steamboat-pilot use, to call anything that confronts your shallow, inappropriate analyses "communist" or "Marxist"? Economics is neither, though all flavors of ideologies and twisted agenda have tried to make economics justify their actions and views. Please don't you do that, too.

I don't perform social engineering. I make no recommendations other to provoke some critical thinking, if possible, in Routt County. I'm just trying to make the point that if you are going to use economics to try to understand a very real, important local social issue, that you really use economics and some of the good tools it has to offer, not some first year twaddle. Who said "Any fool can teach a parrot to say 'Supply and Demand'?" or something like it?

I don't use a holistic approach, though I am open to and skeptic of many approaches to social measures and relationships. I use methods and tools that are appropriate to the task and have survived repeated, long term rigorous examination and testing, some of which, but not all, use for better or worse, advanced mathematics and all of which, when properly administered, clearly note and explore the limits of their strengths, provide an answer that is itself open to further exploration (not a single number) and are open to easy and immediate revision with new information. Here, I do owe you all an apology - what I've repeatedly seen in the local paper is the use of classical economics, not even leavened with updates from the 18th century. There's nothing new in it and the field has developed further and more refined techniques in the last 200 years, which mathematicians, physicists, biologists and others have shared. So I was wrong to use the term neo-classical. What I've seen isn't that fresh. Classical economics is great for a freshman year economics vocabulary class, less so for politics and worst for social engineering, which is what you propose by creating your position with it. I'd rather have you use a different justification, say microbiology, in your discussion of affordable housing than a misapplication of a misunderstanding of what economics is.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

to Hadleyburg_Press (continued)

I don't have a position to defend - I'm merely criticizing you for using a weak foundation for yours. I will defend that critisism until I start seeing some real economic studies, not jibber jabber, performed by the town or county on the issue (no, I'm not looking for that job - that would destroy my credibility here, wouldn't it?)

You ask a poor question - there is no real free market - it's a pedagogic abstraction to make the math easier for lower level students. At least do some comparative statics, which gives you directions. A better question would be perhaps a set of counter-factuals? What are some community (Routt county) supported objective functions (or goal programming) for affordable housing? What are their optimal solutions? How does uncertainty and risk create a range of results? Once you have those results, what does Steamboat look like with that affordable housing? Without? What are economic benefits and costs in all this, in each range if scenarios and what social groups bear those? Hedonics is a robust methodology when applied to housing markets (even not free ones) that most developers are familiar with (helps them set differential pricing in superficially like units, for one thing). Why not use taht to explore some of the less tangible, obvious aspects of affordable housing starting with a meanigful definition of affordable that doesn't use median income (a misleading measure for the ability to pay for housing). I'd really like to see someone do a shadow price study of affordable housing in Routt County - that might open a few eyes and minds.

Does all that bring us a baby step closer to mutual understanding?

Light rail for Steamboat? I don't see that in the next 200 years except as a perpetual (I mean public) works project, spelled pork. Now I have heard it all - I've got to work that into my next lecture. Think of the ski area as a coal mine and Steamboat as the little company town near it - that might take some of the emotion out of this.

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 8 months ago

Lots of nice words to fill your stump with. Once again, I am asking for permutations of each scenerio. What is your contingency outcome if the City Council implements Inclusionary Zones into the base, deed restricted units, affordable housing mandates, fee in liue, et al.? What is the outcome if they don't. There is an old Chinese saying that predicting is very difficult, especially when it involves the future. What good is all of your analysis if it serves no purpose towards determination? Are you lecturing on word art or do you compel those that you engage to use those "tools" towards a refined outcome? What is the outcome that you or the City is looking to achieve? Do you feel that the above mentioned goverment tinkering will accomplish that goal? Have you ever heard of the 'Law of unintended consequences"? I am more than happy to be taught by you, but it will take more than your obvious understanding of economic specific language. Regardless, I respect the opportunity to discuss the issue with you, but lets get to the meat and not worry about the garnishments.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

No garnishments.

See, we are starting to ask the same questions. Count on the City Council having all that and more. If they're thrown out, this issue will still keep coming back. It's a real one.

The ideal outcome does look different than that from no action or the cry that the market will solve it. How? Market failures are dealt with, so that public goods are provided. Why is affordable housing in Steamboat (yes, right at the ski area base, where it makes sense) now becoming a public good against your wishes (can't blame you - it ain't cheap)? Because private markets failed to provide it. Why? That's the best question yet.

I don't have an easy answer for that one. Maybe local developers do - some of them have really tried hard to provide it. Or maybe the ski area management could comment on their rapid expansion of local housing (or lack thereof) to match the growing economy and labor needs they cause and benefit from? One way to analyze it is to ask who (as a group of similar people) benefitted most from that failure and who's going to lose the most in its correction?

I wish we would move to the next step - the very real fear that this will just turn into an inefficient, poorly done, cost overrun public boondoggle that doesn't even provide much real affordable housing to those who will create the most benefit from it, local employees and year round residents.

Frankly, I'd rather serve as a watchdog group member than as a study purveyor. Some locals built their own place! They could keep costs down with their knowledge and some volunteer time to manage and train volunteers. This type of project works best with lots of groups, interagency interactions and multiple funding sources all watching over each other's shoulders and some real planning. It's gonna get rowdy, but the outcome could be great. Other ski areas would look at us with even greater envy and we'll have a town that's just easier to get things done in (can we agree that's a good thing?). But, without real economic studies, I can guarantee that the wrong kind, cost and amount of housing will be built in the wrong place at the wrong time. That would be politics and very Steamboat.

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economist 7 years, 8 months ago

I think another_local had the most sane comments I've heard about this in a long time. No need for big projects, awareness of real renter's issues and preferences and neutral to whoever is on the council. Relatively low cost, uses places and areas that could use improvement anyway and would get it for affordable housing. Win-win-win situations, even for those who pay. The alternative bogeyman is new but poorly built section 8 housing right at the ski lifts inhabited by depraved crack head hippies with no jobs, mooning the nouveau rich and having loudest belch echo off the mountain contests after dark.

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