Rental enforcement discussed

Discussion sparked by July fire death could lead to changes

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information

Agenda

4 p.m. Council convenes as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority to discuss public improvement projects at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area

5 p.m. Mainstreet Steamboat Springs update; discussion of life safety and code enforcement issues; budget overview

The June 15 death of David Engle in a house fire sparked an immediate interest in the regulation of secondary residential units such as the one he called home.

About three months later, the issue will be a topic for discussion for the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Engle died of smoke inhalation after he fell asleep while cooking, and a grease fire ignited in his apartment at 705 Pine St. According to city codes, secondary units are those located on the same lots as principal dwelling units and include a sleeping area, kitchen and bathroom. Engle's apartment, which lacked any smoke detectors, was not registered as a legal secondary unit with the city.

In the days after Engle's death, some council members called for increased enforcement of secondary rental units. Jeff Gerber, the owner of Engle's apartment, said he was unaware it was not in compliance and called for a rental licensing program for the city. Officials in Steamboat and other Western Slope communities stressed the difficulty of policing such units on anything more than a complaint-based level.

Although city planner Jason Peasley said Engle's death sparked a flurry of inquiries from people about registering secondary units, a list of legal secondary units in the city shows only two have registered since June 15. There are 68 legal secondary units in the city and an unknown number of illegal ones.

City Council President Loui Antonucci described tonight's discussion as informational only and said he doubts any council members will have specific proposals for changing the way the city regulates secondary units.

"What we asked the staff to do is report on what the present process is," he said Monday. Council members "didn't know what we were doing."

Councilman Steve Ivancie said he hopes to see changes that would ensure Steamboat residents are living in safe homes.

"I have certain concerns with the lack of enforcement," he said Monday. "I'd like to get the word out that we're at least getting these things inspected and up to code."

Acting City Manager Wendy DuBord said any increases in enforcement could prove difficult to enact.

"There's some legal issues associated with enforcement," she said Monday. "And we know there'll be some extra expense. : That will take extra resources and probably some legal research."

Capital projects threatened

Also today, council will be briefed on other enforcement issues related to traffic, receive updates on base area redevelopment and Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, and discuss the 2009 budget.

DuBord said today's budget discussion will focus on the capital improvements plan. DuBord said the city has about $20 million in capital projects planned for 2009. She said the city can't afford all those projects. The city's management team met recently for the fourth time to try to bring the capital improvements plan within budget through means such as postponing projects and dipping into the city's capital reserves.

"We can probably afford somewhere between $12 million and $15 million if we use our capital reserves," DuBord said. "The caution in doing that is you want to maintain enough of your capital reserves for emergency capital repairs and replacements."

DuBord said the city's healthy reserves are the result of strong building use tax and excise tax collections.

"Council needs to know that capital reserve will not replenish itself as quickly as it has in the last couple years," she said. "Building construction is slowing down. We're behind last year, and we're budgeting to be behind : for 2009."

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