Steamboat Springs A lawyer representing the developers of Steamboat 700 told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday that a financing mechanism being considered by the city is unfair and unconstitutional.
The city is considering the use of real estate transfer fees - a tool illegal in Colorado unless included in an annexation agreement or voluntarily offered by a developer - to help offset the expected financial impacts of the planned 700-acre development west of city limits that proposes about 2,000 homes and hopes to be annexed into city limits.
"We think that is fundamentally a flawed notion," land-use attorney Bob Weiss said. "It is not politically sustainable. We don't think we should single out one part of the community."
Steamboat 700 has proposed a 1 percent transfer fee of its own to be devoted to affordable housing. Such fees are assessed on real estate sales within the development in perpetuity, excluding initial sales. In support of his argument, Weiss noted that in a 2006 update to the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, officials removed a proposed operational mill levy expected to raise $720 a unit annually. Weiss argued this move was an acknowledgment that future residents of west Steamboat should not be treated like "second-class citizens" by incurring a fee or tax not levied throughout the entire community.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich disagreed. He noted other areas of the plan that clearly state the city should find ways to ensure existing residents are not financially burdened by new residential development.
"I think that's an improper conclusion," Lettunich said.
"I totally disagree with what he just said," Weiss responded. "To add it now would be a major change in the direction of this plan."
Jerry Dahl, a consultant attorney hired by the city who specializes in annexations, then entered the conversation. He said the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan should not be considered gospel.
"The plan is not project review and approval," Dahl said. "If that were true, we wouldn't have anything to do, would we? : Inevitably there are things in that project that aren't dealt with in that plan or are not dealt with properly in that plan."
Dahl also noted Steamboat 700 has proposed many elements that are not mentioned or even contradict elements of the plan.
"That would cut both ways," he said.
Weiss, who later apologized for his aggressive response to Lettunich, said he agrees with Dahl.
"We agree," Weiss said. "What we're saying is this fee is bad policy, regardless of the plan."
In other action
The City Council approved a Yampa Valley Housing Authority project at U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road on the condition that pedestrian improvements be addressed proportionally by property owners in the area.
Council members and the public raised concerns about the project's location at an already congested intersection. The project includes 54 multi-family units and 13 single-family lots in an area that includes mostly light-industrial uses.
"I think building this development without putting somewhere in there for kids to play would be a big mistake," said Councilman Jon Quinn, who suggested removing some units to make room for a playground on the site. "I'm a huge proponent of affordable housing, but that doesn't mean the families that live there shouldn't have options for their kids to play."
Curtis Church, project manager for the Housing Authority, said the authority designed the project to maximize affordability.
"We determined that we're trying to keep the HOA fees as low as possible," Church said. "At the time they find it necessary to build that stuff, they can put it into their capital reserves."
A representative of nearby industrial contractor TIC, who also spoke on behalf of SmartWool, said the Housing Authority project, coupled with another recently approved development would generate more than 500 vehicle trips a day.
"I hope you don't take this traffic issue lightly," the woman said. "It's thwarting all of our efforts to get our employees to come to work any way other than car. But that's the only way to get there safely."
Council approved the project, 5-1, with councilman Walter Magill opposing.