Steamboat developer seeks review of city's affordable housing requirements

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Read more about affordable housing in Routt County in our Sunday feature from February.

— Every new development in Steamboat Springs is required to submit a community housing plan that details how the project will fit into existing city requirements to provide affordable housing.

One development coming before the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday challenges the status quo and seeks to open up a broader discussion on affordable housing in the current real estate and development climate.

The Emerald Heights townhome project proposes six buildings for a total of 23 units off Hilltop Parkway on lots that originally were part of the failed Eco Corral development.

The community housing requirements for Steamboat require either a number of affordable units based on a formula, or payments in lieu of providing those units.

“The (payment in lieu) we believe is just out of touch with what development should be paying,” said Jon Peddie, who’s part of the Steamboat Hilltop LLC that is developing the project. “If it’s a community benefit, then the community should pay for it, including the development community. We should pay our fair share, not 100 percent of the burden.”

The payment in lieu for the Emerald Heights development would be almost $166,000.

Instead, Peddie wrote in a letter to city planning staff and City Council members that he is requesting the current standards for community housing be reviewed.

In his letter, Peddie stated that the requirements rely on outdated and incorrect assumptions.

“Development back in 2007 was a completely different world,” he said, adding that many things such as interest rates, building costs and housing prices have changed.

Peddie has proposed a 1/4 percent real estate transfer fee for the units, starting with the initial sale and being assessed on each subsequent sale.

The city’s code allows for an alternative where half of the payment in lieu is due up front and a half percent transfer fee is assessed on each sale.

The code also states that the City Council has the discretion to accept any in-lieu consideration that meets or exceeds the calculated payment in lieu amount.

Because the 1/4 percent transfer fee would not meet or exceed the city’s alternative that includes a transfer fee, city planning staff deemed the proposal to be inconsistent with the code.

Ultimately, the decision to change the ordinances that codified the city’s community housing requirements rests with the City Council. If the Planning Commission rejects Peddie’s community housing plan, he could appeal the decision to the City Council.

Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the process to study and possibly amend the community housing requirements is lengthy, and his department is just now putting together the scope, costs and timeline associated with that process.

Peddie’s other proposal is to comply with the current requirements for the first building and then abide by whatever decision staff or the City Council eventually make.

He said that by addressing the issue now, staff, City Council and the community have time to offer input.

“We’re going into this mostly with the idea that by kind of putting the onus on us to abide by whatever the council deems to be the final decision, we feel it is a very fair approach,” Peddie said. “While it doesn’t meet current code, it gives about a year for staff and council and community” to consider the issue.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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