A complex public/private cost-sharing agreement for a new road in Steamboat Springs could unlock the potential for thousands of community housing units in subdivisions on the city's west side.
Steamboat Realtor Norbert Turek and his client Jay Weinberg received the news Nov. 18 that City Council had approved a cost-sharing agreement for the first leg of the New Victory Highway into the west Steamboat area. It would allow them to pursue approval of their new subdivision, Overlook Park, after more than two years of standing on the sidelines. Overlook Park could include as many as 150 modestly sized single-family home lots.
The New Victory Highway would serve as an arterial road providing access to larger subdivisions such as Steamboat 700 just outside the city's current western city limits. Steamboat 700 someday could deliver 2,000 homes, 20 percent of them affordable.
"It's a critical first step, and it's significant due to the unusual circumstance of both the city and county contributing funds to that road," Planning Services Manager John Eastman said.
The agreement now in place provides a model for funding the necessary infrastructure associated with meeting Steamboat's growing need for community housing, Eastman said. Without the New Victory Highway, there is no direct access from Routt County Road 129 to the rolling fields that are expected to become new residential neighborhoods in the future.
Of immediate significance to Turek and his client is that the first section of the new arterial road would provide access to their proposed development. The goal, Turek said, is to develop lots that can meet the needs of people living and working in Steamboat.
And unlike other residential developments being eyed west of Steamboat, Overlook Park already is in city limits and does not require annexation.
"We're just excited to have the ability to move forward," Turek said. "The city and the county have basically said, 'This is it.' They pulled the trigger on making this happen."
Turek added that Weinberg obtained a new round of financing from Alpine Bank just last week. Weinberg is an investor who has completed small development projects in the Aspen/Carbondale area, Turek said.
Eastman acknowledged the perseverance necessary on the part of Weinberg and Turek.
"The city appreciates the patience of the Overlook team during the complicated right-of-way acquisition and development of the cost sharing arrangement," he said.
The county, a participant in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, has agreed to provide matching funds of up to $500,000 for the first phase of the road. The city has committed almost $1.1 million for construction and acquiring rights of way. Turek said Weinberg would pay the cost of building the road across his 70-acre parcel, plus 9 percent of the cost of the first stretch of the road linking his land with Downhill Drive (behind West Acres Mobile Home Park).
Overlook Park entered the city planning process in January 2006 but essentially was held hostage by the complexity of acquiring rights of way and solving some legal riddles associated with the first leg of the road.
The New Victory Highway would begin at a nondescript curve on Downhill Drive adjacent to the equipment yard of an excavating company. It would parallel the northern boundary of the longstanding West Acres Mobile Home Park entering Weinberg's property at a point very close to the northwest corner of West End Village. From that point it enters a seldom-seen pocket valley just a few hundred yards from the rustic fenceline that signifies the city's western edge.
Tentative plans for Overlook Park, Turek said, include two pods of development. The first is on a hill with views to Soda Mountain that would have direct road access to West End Village. The second, in the valley, would straddle the proposed route off the New Victory Highway.
Turek is proposing to change the existing zoning on the former from mobile home park to residential, allowing lots of 8,000 square feet, or about one-fifth of an acre. In the valley, the zoning would change to permit lots of 6,000 square feet. The larger lots would be comparable in size to existing lots in the Yahmonite and Uncochief neighborhood of Old Town, and the smaller lots would be comparable to those found on Sixth and Seventh streets at Logan Street.
"That magic question is, what will it cost? In order to sell it, we've got to price it to the work force," Turek said.
He does not expect to see homes under construction in Overlook Park before 2010. And not all of the lots would be released to the market at one time.
A third parcel comprising almost 4 acres between West Acres and the valley neighborhood is zoned for neighborhood commercial use, permitting a development like a neighborhood store or bagel shop, for example.
Eastman said he has the impression that the public is focused largely on the 20 percent affordable units that will be provided at Steamboat 700. However, he said the homes at Overlook Park and Steamboat 700, if approved, also would answer a significant demand in the community.
"The market-rate homes would provide the move-up answer for people who right now are living in a Whistler Village townhome but are starting a family," Eastman said. "They'd like to move up, but they can't because the leap is too big."
The New Victory Highway would continue its short run through Weinberg's property to a portion of the Steamboat 700 property that is tentatively being studied for big-box retail.
Eastman said he intends to initiate a public discussion early in 2009 meant to gauge the community's feelings about large-format retail, where it should be if it's allowed, and what it should look like.