Hospital questions housing fees

YVMC director says proposed policy would stunt growth

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Yampa Valley Medical Center's top executive said Thursday that city policies intended to fund affordable housing, if approved in their current form, would significantly limit future expansion and services at the hospital.

Yampa Valley Medical Center is a regional referral center that serves five counties in Northwest Colorado, an area that is rapidly growing in population and increasing demand for medical care.

Karl Gills, chief executive officer at the hospital on Central Park Drive, said additional fees that could be administered by the city as part of its revised inclusionary zoning ordinance would delay or diminish the hospital's planned expansion of its obstetric wing and its surgical operating space, while also limiting the hospital's capacity to maintain technologically updated equipment and to provide charitable care for patients unable to pay for treatment. Gills said the hospital funded $3.6 million in uncompensated care during its 2006 fiscal year.

The obstetric wing provides care for pregnant women and newborns.

"Our OB business continues to grow, and we need more beds," Gills said Thursday. "Our surgical volume also continues to grow. We would like to expand both facilities at the same time ... but it could be that we can't do the project either as soon as we would like to or as extensively as we would like to."

Financial resources for those expansions, which Gills said "are just now beginning the design phase," would be reduced by a controversial linkage policy in the city's revised inclusionary ordinance, which regulates how the city provides and funds affordable housing.

Linkage would require residential and commercial developers to compensate the city, either by a fee or by construction of affordable homes, for a percentage of the market-rate housing units or employees created by their new development.

Simply put, linkage means if you build something that will bring new employees to Steamboat Springs, you have to help the city provide housing for those employees.

Large expansions to existing facilities, including single-family homes, would also be subject to linkage fees.

As the proposed ordinance is currently written, the hospital would fall under the "institutional" category of commercial uses. Other commercial-use categories are retail, office and industrial development.

"I think the council needs to look at whether they want to include institutional uses," city planning director Tom Leeson said. "Having said that, they also need to understand that institutional uses do generate employees. Exempting institutional uses from linkage would mean the council would have to mitigate those impacts in other ways."

On Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs City Council conducted a first reading of the revised inclusionary zoning ordinance. After several hours of debate and public comment, the council tabled any action and decided to continue the first reading May 1. A second, and potentially final, reading could occur May 15.

The council has plenty of issues to discuss between now and then.

"I really am concerned about the long-term impacts of what you are proposing," Gills told the council Tuesday.

But hospital officials also recognize the need to provide affordable housing for their employees.

On Thursday, the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will review the community housing plan for Steamboat Barn Village, a subdivision planned for a 39-acre site north of Central Park Drive and adjacent to hospital property.

Leeson said the housing plan proposes that in exchange for an access road to the subdivision on hospital property, Steamboat Barn Village would provide more than 15 transitional housing units for hospital employees.

Also Tuesday, the City Council agreed linkage fees should apply to building expansions of more than 1,200 square feet, rather than the 500 square feet initially proposed.

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

ThreeJobs 7 years, 3 months ago

Let's think about this. Without "linkage" the premise is that a business or institution would have a difficult time finding employees to work because they can't afford to live in or close enough to Steamboat?

So in the free market--no linkage, no socialist housing they would have to be paid more in order to be attracted to work .

Seems to me this is by far the more democratic than some flawed complicated government mandated program that attempts to band aid part of the issue. Surely those in favor of some plan of entitlement can see that however complicated and encompassing an ordinance might be that will fall far short of success.

Let's say the hospital is exempt from linkage. They expand and need more employees but can't find anybody to work. Isn't it logical that with higher pay the issue solves itself? What is wrong with this?

I can't help but think that those in favor of socialist housing are just trying to insure that prices on goods and services here are kept low for their benefit . (..or possibly well intentioned but misguided "do gooders") Actually, it will result in higher prices than in a free market because linkage costs will have to be added into the cost of a project and the cost of doing business.

Is anyone actually naÃive enough to think that a government run program is more efficient than the private sector? If you think that socialist government meddling is the solution perhaps you should examine the economies of countries that have tried. Russia, Poland, Cuba are a few examples that come to mind.

Let supply and demand determine the labor rate here. Trying to control just one component of the cost of living here (housing) for a small percentage of workers is unfair to all of us. Face facts. Ultimately it is a costly experiment that just doesn't work.

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 3 months ago

very eloquent, vivid, I would say, we can only hope the powers that be read threejobs up there, an excellent brief, economics 101. Thank You for the good thinking...........

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agentofchange 7 years, 3 months ago

Right on, Right on, Right on. Sad to say threejobs, these government types actually do think this (linkage) is a wonderful thing. We've all said it before, but I love the way you have stated it.

Thank you Mr. Gill for bringing this to light AGAIN. Editor Scott: Are you reading this>we need a public forum, other than this venue. Rise to greatness Scott, you control the Media here in River City. Put it together Scott! We will help.

We are not against "affordable housing" or entry level housing", we just beleive the current path that planning and Council is on is economic suicide for our area. PERIOD !!

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agentofchange 7 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, it's Gills, not Gill, anyway - THANKS!

agentofchange

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elphaba 7 years, 3 months ago

Does anyone think it's ironic that once the linkage is adopted that the price of an existing house will automatically rise. i.e. my house is already here and not subject to the fees so it is worth more because new construction costs will increase. Maybe I'm missing something but how does making housing more expensive make housing more affordable?????? Council has now made it impossible for a family with a good income to afford housing. That's really brilliant!

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 3 months ago

elpha, you have not missed a thing, all any of this feel good social construction does is raise the cost of housing, econ 101, very simple theory and math, all good intending, just does not work, period. only serves the socialists who want us to be beholding to them for their benevolence, thanks for nothing, but inflation.

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