Steamboat Springs Two planning officials said Thursday night that affordable housing units should be integrated throughout neighborhoods, rather than isolated in one area, adding how to create diverse communities to the city's ongoing discussion about housing policies.
With a 5-2 vote at Centennial Hall, the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission approved the community housing plan for Steamboat Barn Village, a proposed subdivision near Yampa Valley Medical Center and east of Pine Grove Road. But before that approval, a debate arose about whether all the subdivision's affordable housing units should be placed on one lot at the site.
The housing plan for Steamboat Barn Village proposes 16 deed-restricted condominiums in one building on the site's Lot 63, which is in the southeast corner of the subdivision, near Central Park Drive. Another building on the same lot would include 14 transitional housing units for new employees of the hospital. The remainder of the subdivision's 90 total units would be spread throughout the site's 39 acres, some of which border Fish Creek.
Scott Woodford of development consultants Patten Associates said Lot 63 gives the affordable units "full integration with the city," providing a location that is within walking distance from Central Park Plaza, Wildhorse Marketplace and city transit.
But commissioners Steve Lewis and Dick Curtis, who cast the two votes against the housing plan, asked why the affordable units couldn't be spread throughout the subdivision.
"I have a problem with one big, multi-family building on one site being used for affordable housing," Curtis said.
He cited a section of the 2004 Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan that states, "Affordable housing should be integrated in existing and new neighborhoods in ways that do not compromise the character of neighborhoods by ensuring that the scale, form, and quality of housing development is compatible with surrounding development."
Woodford said that while he supports the idea of integrated neighborhoods, the differences in scale between market-rate and affordable units - 3,500-square-foot homes versus 1,000-square-foot homes, he said - would not be compatible next to each other.
"I think this kind of idea would work better in West Steamboat," Woodford said.
Planning commissioners Kathi Meyer, Scott Myller and Cari Hermacinski supported the location of affordable units at Steamboat Barn Village.
Also Thursday, the Planning Commission continued its review of proposed revisions to the city's inclusionary zoning ordinance, which regulates how the city provides affordable housing. The commission is reviewing the ordinance to give recommendations to the Steamboat Springs City Council.
One of those recommendations will be to remove part of a controversial linkage policy.
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.
Citing potentially excessive penalties for homeowners, and adding a clause to avoid legal issues, the commission voted unanimously Thursday night to exempt single-family and duplex residential development from the linkage policy, and to place multi-family buildings under the umbrella of commercial development.
The City Council has expressed strong support for residential and commercial linkage. It will continue its first reading of the revised ordinance May 1, and could conduct a second and final reading May 15.
The Planning Commission will continue reviewing the housing ordinance at its next meeting, May 10.
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