City Council divided on housing code

Officials debate possible revisions to ordinance

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City approves housing deal

Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 5-2, Tuesday to amend the permit for Howelsen Place, allowing the completed downtown development to pay the city in lieu of selling six deed-restricted affordable housing units to qualified buyers.

The six units will be eligible for sale at market rates.

Council members Meg Bentley and Steve Ivancie voted against the measure.

"They were given their approval (for building height and parking variances) by providing something in return," Ivancie said. "They should live up to that."

Howelsen Place developer Mark Scully said he hopes making the payment and selling market rate condos for $300,000 and $350,000 still provides a public benefit.

— Steamboat Springs City Council took a step toward changing the affordable housing rules it imposes on developers Tuesday night.

But council members made it clear that more work must be done before Aug. 4, when they are scheduled to make the final vote on revising the city's affordable housing ordinance.

A community task force is working with city staff to hammer out the fiscal details of a revised ordinance. City Council President Loui Antonucci asked members of the task force to meet again before the August vote. City Council is seeking a more detailed analysis of the revenue balance between allowing developers to make payments in lieu of providing affordable housing units, installing voluntary revenue transfer fees or both.

City Council, city staff and members of the task force agree philosophically that developers throughout the city should be given more options than building affordable units alone to offset the affordable housing demands their projects create.

They've come to that realization throughout time, as deed-restricted housing units at First Tracks and Howelsen Place have failed to find a market.

The current debate involves what combination of payments and real estate transfer fees the final ordinance should call for.

Council members Steve Ivancie, Jon Quinn and Meg Bentley all expressed a preference for balancing the two. City Council President Pro-tem Cari Hermacinski was emphatic in trying to persuade her colleagues that throughout time, voluntary transfer fees would generate greater and more consistent returns for the community housing cause.

"Even in times like these, some things are selling and generating transfer fees," Hermacinski said. "But there's nothing happening right now with new developments," that would generate payments in lieu of affordable units.

Hermacinski expressed strong dissatisfaction with an analysis prepared by city staff of the revenue-generating potential of transfer fees. The analysis, she said, overlooked some of the potential of transfer fees to generate revenues, and it was submitted to council and members of the public too late to permit a thorough discussion of its merits.

"This is a divisive issue and can be polarizing in the community," she said. "I think there are some things in here that are hugely flawed. These numbers are cooked to make real estate transfer fees look bad."

For example, Hermacinski said, the transfer fee analysis prepared by staff overlooked future real estate appreciation, which would increase the revenue potential.

Bentley said she would prefer to cover all bases by seeking balance between transfer fees and payments in lieu. Quinn agreed.

He countered Hermacinski by saying that during intense development periods, payments in lieu could generate large one-time sums to support affordable housing needs.

"Think about a year when 40 units at Edgemont and 80 at One Steamboat Place sell and generate a big number," Quinn said.

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years ago

I expect Loui lives just fine with himself. He's invested a lot of time into this town, and its appreciated. Thanks Loui.

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Steve Lewis 5 years ago

As a former city planning commissioner who voted to approve the extra height (an extra story) at Howelson Place, I can assure you the majority of my peers on that planning commission would have said "NO", were it not for those promised affordable housing units.

Obviously I am disappointed to see that promise now dissolved by this council. To put it mildly.

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Steve Lewis 5 years ago

This story puzzled me, in that we seem past the question of whether an RTF would actually work.

The City Attorney previously said the RTF was, legally, the least secure path with which to fund affordable housing within Steamboat. Other RTF's have been successfully challenged when made an "option", and seem even more vulnerable as a stand alone requirement. I believe the Base Area owner's attorney made a similar RTF asssessment.

What has changed?

I called a friend in attendance to ask if the council conversation included my above concern. Apparently it did briefly, with more talk about the $$ problem the City would be in if it collected and spent the RTF money, but was later sued by a buyer (I expect based additional court findings against RTF's).

Imagine building an affordable housing fund via the RTF path and in 6-10 years having to give most of the $$ back.

I understand how an annexation RTF is secure. I also understand how an RTF in existing Steamboat is the opposite - likely to fail. This RTF path makes NO SENSE.

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greenwash 5 years ago

We all know Cari and Loui are in the back pockets of most the developers in town.What a shame to let these guys off so easily.

Has anyone noticed things are so bad for Green Court that they now have a parking attendant (I mean realtor) renting spaces by the day/week/month.OUCH.

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robert nestora 5 years ago

I have only been in Steamboat a few years but when you have real estate agents guarding the hen house the results are obvious. how antonucci doesnt dismiss himself from decisions that may affect his income is beyond me. how he lives with himself i'll never understand.

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