Public comments from Tuesday night's meeting from Catherine Carson, Sandy Evans Hall and Ed MacArthur.
Steamboat Springs Non-profits are excluded from sweeping new housing policies adopted by the city of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday night.
Capping nine months of research and preparation, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved a vastly revised inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinance, voting, 4-2, to change how the city will provide affordable housing for local workers facing Steamboat's booming real estate market. Council members Paul Strong and Loui Antonucci voted against the ordinance, citing what they said are excessive fees for commercial developers. City Council President Susan Dellinger was absent from the meeting, which continued past 11 p.m. in a crowded Centennial Hall.
The City Council made several significant changes to the ordinance, some just minutes before its adoption. Arguably the largest change was a unanimous decision, spurred by Councilman Paul Strong, to exempt institutional uses - including all non-profits, such as Yampa Valley Medical Center and LIFT-UP of Routt County - from paying "linkage" fees for new construction.
Linkage fees compensate the city for housing needs created by development.
Karl Gills, the hospital's chief executive officer, has for months spoken against assessing such fees to local non-profits. Tuesday night, representatives of six other non-profits pleaded to the council to exempt them from linkage fees, which Tami Havener of the Family Development Center said could have cost the center up to $100,000.
"Anytime we add costs, it goes back to families," Havener said, citing rising local birth rates and a waiting list of 175 children in line for the center's pre-school facilities. "We would like to expand:the need is only going to get worse for our young families."
But while non-profits are now exempt from helping the city fund affordable housing, commercial developers will shoulder much of the burden.
A sticking point for the council was how much of a fee to charge commercial developers. While Strong and Antonucci pushed for a 5 percent rate - a percentage that would be plugged into the city's fee formula - other council members supported a 10 percent rate. Mark Halvorson of the Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association told the council that for a roughly 10,000-square-foot office building he would like to build, the difference between a 5 percent or 10 percent rate is $100,000 or $200,000.
The council gave Halvorson, and commercial developers, somewhat of a compromise.
In an effort some council members said is intended to help small businesses, the first 5,000 square feet of new commercial construction will now be assessed a linkage fee at a 5 percent rate. Square footage beyond that will be assessed at a 10 percent rate.
While homebuilders also will be required to help the city fund affordable housing, the council lightened the load for residential development.
Residential construction of less than 500 square feet is exempt from fees. Construction from 500 square feet to 1,999 square feet will only be assessed at a 1 percent rate, a reduction from previous versions of the ordinance.
Councilman Towny Anderson proposed one of the final changes to the ordinance, giving commercial and residential developers the right to pay the city a fee in lieu of providing affordable units required by the city's inclusionary zoning policies.
Previously, the city only allowed such fees in minimal amounts, for fractions of units left over in city calculations.
Councilman Ken Brenner said the change will drastically reduce the city's ability to acquire actual affordable homes, rather than payments.
"It makes no sense to do that - what we're going to get is fee-in-lieu," Brenner said. "I thought we were doing a great job this evening : but this is the wrong thing to do. I'm really disappointed."
The inclusionary zoning and linkage ordinance will be effective Wednesday, June 20, because the City Council tabled action on associated housing guidelines until its meeting June 19.
"This is about keeping up and going forward," Anderson said of the ordinance. "We're not going backward."
City Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie, who moderated the meeting in Dellinger's stead, noted the policies can be changed in the future.
"We have annual review of this, and we'll be able to adjust it as needed," Ivancie said. "This is just one tool: I think this ordinance requires pretty much everyone to pay. We all have a stake in this. We all have a foot in the pond."
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