Steamboat City Council considers review process for community housing regulations

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YVHA loan negotiations continue

In a letter to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority dated May 31, First National Bank of the Rockies President and CEO Pete Waller said the bank will not take a writedown on its loan to the Housing Authority.

The approximately $2 million loan stemming from the Housing Authority's Elk River Village purchase in 2006 is expected to be the focus of additional negotiations with the bank at a meeting tentatively set for Wednesday.

The Housing Authority stopped paying on the note June 13 in attempt to push the bank to negotiate further.

In his letter, Waller outlines that the bank sees no reason to write down the principal of the loan and leave any eventual appreciation to be captured by the Housing Authority. He does state the bank is willing to work with the organization on a possible issue stemming from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Because there was no public vote on the loan, the Housing Authority’s legal counsel, Dee Wisor, said that note would need to be converted to a lease/purchase agreement subject to yearly appropriations to comply with TABOR.

Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board President Kathi Meyer said Monday that the organization will offer shared appreciation as one of the options when it meets with First National Bank of the Rockies.

Waller’s letter states that it would not be in the best interest of either party or the public to default on the loan.

The Housing Authority was formed by an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County, which jointly contribute about $160,000 to the organization per year.

Steamboat Springs City Council member Sonja Macys said Tuesday that it’s important to have an agency that’s tasked with affordable housing.

“We’re told repeatedly that it’s not supposed to be the city,” Macys said. “It logically follows that it has be some other organization.”

The document that formed the Housing Authority states that the city and county bear no responsibility for the entity’s debts. Members of the Routt County Board of Commissioners said Tuesday that the organization is free to do as it wishes.

The county commissioners, however, would like to be at the table during the city’s larger discussion about affordable housing.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council authorized Tuesday night the expenditure of $5,000 to help compile a market review in preparation for a larger look at the city’s community housing plan. The council will hear back on progress during its first meeting in September.

But the City Council also will consider an indefinite suspension of the community housing regulations at its first meeting in July.

The issue of perceived inadequacies and inequity in the current community housing regulations was raised in May, and the City Council directed staff to look at reviewing the ordinances.

Planning Director Tyler Gibbs presented City Council with a scope and timeline for the review during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The request was for the City Council to provide direction to staff on how to proceed, but the discussion and comments from the public more broadly addressed the need for community housing at all.

“I think this is an important question for us to be considering,” Gibbs said. “Our current ordinance was crafted at a very different economic period.

“So we did what a lot of communities across the country did and looked at this with a philosophy that new development should pay its way because it looked to have huge momentum and would be a force for some time.”

The city’s original linkage requirements, which mandated housing units be provided by developers for a percentage of the workforce their project created, previously were suspended indefinitely. The inclusionary zoning requirement, which forces developers to provide affordable housing in their projects or pay a fee, still is in effect.

Gibbs said it was a “catch-up and keep-up approach” designed to balance the load between development paying its way and the city, county and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority managing the program. The city and county jointly contribute about $160,000 per year to the Housing Authority. The city also has contributed money to a down payment assistance revolving loan fund.

Developers in the audience Tuesday disputed whether the load really was balanced.

“I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking to a lot of people and talking to staff again,” said Jon Peddie, who is developing the Emerald Heights townhome project off Hilltop Parkway. “What we have right now is not fair, it’s not right, it’s not well thought out. It needs to be replaced by something that functions and works.”

Peddie urged the City Council to consider an indefinite suspension of the ordinances but also said the city should start to take some straw polls of the community as a whole, outside of just developers and those involved in housing.

A review of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan has been ongoing since spring 2011 with open houses to discuss some proposed alternatives currently taking place across the county.

Yampa Valley Housing Authority Board President Kathi Meyer noted Tuesday night that the plan is focused heavily on housing and that there’s information to be gleaned there.

However, as City Council member Walter Magill noted later in the meeting, public participation in the area plan meetings can be limited.

Tom Fox, of Fox Construction, said that community housing should continue in some form, but more of the community should be involved in funding the program.

City Council member Scott Myller also said he’d like to see the funding mechanism revisited.

City Council member Kevin Kaminski supported suspending the existing community housing requirements, but the majority of the City Council wanted to go forward with a review process slightly different from what was outlined by Gibbs.

Gibbs included help from an outside consultant in his outline to assist with the workload. Instead of going through a full bid process, Magill proposed budgeting $5,000 for outside assistance in completing a market review.

The review would serve to illustrate to what extent there is an affordable housing issue, or if there is one, in Steamboat Springs, Magill said.

The $5,000 would come from the council’s discretionary fund, and the issue would be back before council during the first meeting in September.

City Council President Bart Kounovsky said that the review and scope agenda item was not the venue to consider a suspension of the community housing ordinance. That possible suspension was put on the agenda for July 2.

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

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