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Steamboat Springs Expanding Routt County's urban growth boundary will likely require a more lengthy and difficult process than Steamboat 700 developers would like.
The entire 700-acre project, which could include 2,000 new homes along with commercial development and amenities, is outside Steamboat Springs' city limits and intended for annexation into the city. But about 200 of those acres lie north of the urban growth boundary, a border for dense development. In a pre-application review Thursday with the county's planning commission and board of commissioners, county officials said expanding that boundary can't simply be lumped into Steamboat 700's multi-faceted development application.
They said a fair, consistent and defensible process would have to be developed to consider the request - and a process other landowners could enter to make similar petitions. Both the city and county must approve urban growth boundary expansions. County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said such an approval likely would hinge on concessions from the developer.
"There has to be positive and measurable public benefit to the community," Stahoviak said. "If you're going to go there, we need more."
Steamboat 700 Project Manager Danny Mulcahy said leaving the boundary as is would reduce his ability to subsidize the affordable housing he intends to build by reducing the number of market-rate units he can build. Stahoviak disagreed. She said the lower density allowed outside the urban growth boundary would still allow Mulcahy to subsidize affordable housing with larger, high-end parcels.
The proposal's departure from affordable housing requirements in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan also raised some eyebrows Thursday. The area plan requires developers to provide 20 percent of proposed units as affordable housing targeted at those making an average of 80 percent of the area median income. Steamboat 700's developers propose a broader target, with an average of 120 percent of AMI, claiming their plan would result in greater socioeconomic diversity and keep the cost of market-rate housing lower.
Don Alperti, chairman of the Routt County Planning Commission, said the area plan's requirements are binding.
"We're not just going to not look at it and not abide by it," Alperti said. "It's our guide and at this particular time we're going to follow that guide."
For all the concerns raised Thursday, officials continued to commend the Steamboat 700 team for its efforts and its commitment to the public process. Officials also noted the importance of the project emerging successfully.
"I believe it truly is the last chance we have to provide affordable and attainable housing in Routt County," Stahoviak said. "We have to figure out how to make this work. That's the bottom line."