With Brynn Grey considering a new series of neighborhoods that could be annexed in west Steamboat Springs, city officials are discussing what infrastructure would be needed to accommodate the growth.

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With Brynn Grey considering a new series of neighborhoods that could be annexed in west Steamboat Springs, city officials are discussing what infrastructure would be needed to accommodate the growth.

West Steamboat housing proposal evokes strong reactions

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— Young professionals in Steamboat Springs are emerging as the most vocal supporters of a housing proposal that would add 450 units, including some for workers with lower incomes, to the west side of the city in the coming years.

The professionals see the proposal as a lifeline for younger community members who currently cannot afford to buy homes already available in the city limits.

“Will you make room for the future teachers and emergency service workers of this community, or are you guys going to be known as the council that was too scared to move forward, that was too obsessed with fiscal conservatism to think about where to put all the humans?” realtor Matt Eidt asked the City Council Tuesday night.

With the housing proposal chugging along and facing new obstacles and demands from the elected officials at each council meeting, Eidt accused the council of getting caught up in “paralysis by analysis” and urged them to advance the project.

While some council members share Eidt’s concerns, other council members who are seeking more investment from the developer up front say they are looking to minimize the housing proposal’s risk to the community.

Brynn Grey, the developers, are also seeking concessions from the city, such as a delay in adding a $1 million secondary water line to the neighborhoods, that other resort communities they’ve built in have accommodated.

The result is a council that ultimately appears supportive of the new housing but cautious about making any concessions that might put the city at some sort of risk, which even the council has acknowledged it is still trying to define.

The public comments the council heard about the housing proposal Tuesday were some of the sharpest, most impassioned remarks made at Citizens Hall in recent months.

Reed Jones, chair of the Young Professionals Network, offered a human element to the debate over the housing proposal.

She said, while she considers herself lucky to have found a place to live in town, some of her friends have not had the same luck.

“I’ve seen a lot of really great people come with fine, great jobs and then not be able to find housing, and they’ve had to leave,” Jones said.

Jones said she currently lives in a 450-square-foot unit, but she “can’t live there forever.”

“I need somewhere else to go,” she said. “I want to thrive here. I want to move up.”

Jones said she can’t find move-up housing in her price range.

YPN has been encouraging its members to attend the council meetings and express their thoughts about the housing proposal.

Jones said YPN has not taken any sort of vote on whether to support the project.

As the meetings have dragged on and the council has met two rounds of water proposals with scrutiny, some of the young professionals in support of the housing project appear to have grown frustrated.

At the same time, the council also has been hearing from skeptics and critics of the housing proposal.

Steamboat resident Bill Jameson, who has been critical of the developer’s proposal for how to pay for the development’s water needs, submitted a lengthy letter to the council earlier this week further opposing the water plan.

Jameson has said the developer is not proposing to invest enough to make up for the lack of water rights on the property.

City officials said it's hard to put a value on the water demands for the development because of the lack of a water market in the Yampa Valley.

Some community members have put themselves somewhere in the middle of the housing proposal, urging the council to explore the partnership with Brynn Grey but also not to give up too much.

“I think it’s important to have a partnership. I think it’s important that the city make sure they get a good investment from the developers and we put something in but not to the point where we put our community at risk,” Steamboat resident John Spezia said.

Brynn Grey has noted at several meetings that other resort towns it has developed neighborhoods in have done such things as donated land and waived tap fees to facilitate the projects.

How far will the council go to meet the developers here?

Will the project stay afloat?

The groups still have several public meetings planned to talk about a wide range of topics including wastewater and roads.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

Matthew Kuckkahn 1 month, 1 week ago

Unfortunately water right concerns are very real, which most people don't fully realize. Most of the water in the Yampa belongs to people down-stream. The front range is very water hungry. Water is inflating in price along with all other securities like real estate & stocks. No water, no growth, it is that simple. Water is wealth.

Obtaining senior water rights is not guaranteed. Has a water right even been identified for potential purchase? I have looked and there is not much out there in our over-appropriated system. This is step one of the basic planning process of a new development because if you can't obtain a basic utility you are out of luck, and there are developments out there that after they are built are not able to lock down a water right, it happens all the time. They end up selling as cheapies to the uninformed, they sit on the market forever, and the area develops a stigma.

I think the council is dead-on in their concerns, and are protecting the community. The people demanding an immediate go-ahead are the uninformed. I need affordable housing too, but not without water, that is a joke.

Also, water is a volatile commodity, like oil and gold. The price can easily double in a year and has in the past. So if the development takes years, at the end you might end up with something unsustainable anyway.

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Scott Wedel 1 month, 1 week ago

Water rights are a valid long term concern, but city has plenty of water rights for this development. That was confirmed by city staff at last week's coffee with council. City currently has sufficient water rights for all in fill development as well as this proposed annexation.

Future annexations of the parcel could reach the point of becoming short on water rights. But the city has very minimal water conservation efforts and summer outdoor watering more than doubles peak winter water usage during max tourism. It is far cheaper to pay for water conservation efforts than to pay for additional water rights and treatment plants.

So it is hardly unreasonable or irresponsible to collect an extra $16,000 per residence to create a fund for dealing with future water issues.

I think the bigger issue are those that think that developers, not the home buyers, will be paying for everything. Nothing will be built that is not paid by the home buyers so the more costs which city wishes to add to the project costs then the more expensive that housing prices must become before development is financially feasible. It is also quite possible that if costs are too much per resident then it becomes financially impossible to consider higher density and the property is broken into 35 acre estates. And then the "attainable housing" market in SB is done and gone moved to Hayden, OC or Stagecoach.

But let's not claim that attainable housing is an important community concern and then say it would be so easy to walk away from this proposal. Brynn Grey is a real developer that has done good projects in Breckenridge and Frisco which also survived the Great Recession in good shape. There is no reason to expect any other developer with a better resume. They are not developers that get something approved and then start renegotiating for better term. Their projects have delivered what they have promised.

I also think SB turning this down will have major repercussion with county cooperation on urban growth boundaries and area plans. The county agreed to stop approving regional subdivisions so that SB could grow by annexations. Yet, here is city 20 years later saying those plans are unworkable because there isn't enough water. County's logical response would be to recognize that city is not a partner in smart growth and thus tell property owners in the SB region to propose what they want with the water they have. That county is not going to maintain SB area growth boundaries when SB isn't willing to approve growth within those boundaries. That county is not going to push development into areas more distant from SB just because SB refuses to allow growth as was promised.

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Scott Wedel 1 month ago

Harvey,

Yeah, government is sometimes so divorced from business that they think someone else other than the consumer is going to be paying for things.

Actually, starter homes can be built in this region in the communities about 20 miles from SB. In those places there are inexpensive lots.

What I find so disappointing in most of city council's demands is that they are made without considering the impact upon the developers. It is as if city council thinks that developers have hundreds of millions of dollars and are charitable organizations. In the real world, asking for millions up front on a long term development costs the developers a lot as they have to treat it as a long term loan. That sort of request by government is just ignorant when the upfront money is to be used for longer term needs.

City asked the developer for a phased annexation approach so if there are things not as good as desired then it can be fixed before the next annexation. So Brynn Grey came back proposing annexing part of the parcel for a 12 or so year development. But now the city is saying they aren't solving the water issues for the rest of the parcel when that is to be annexed. Well, you don't break something into pieces and then complain that a piece isn't the whole.

City council members should be expected to show basic financial competence and understand that the financial impact of various additional requirements upon the developer are actually adding substantial costs to the home buyer. If city determines first phase needs to pay more because costs of future infrastructure costs will increase due to inflation and costly environmental regulations then it is far more cost effective to have annual increases in the amount to be paid when a house sells than require upfront money. The city is going to earn less on upfront money sitting in a bank account than the developer will be pay in loans. So getting the money when a house sells means city can get more will costing the home buyer less.

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Scott Wedel 1 month ago

Seems to me that city's biggest concern in this proposal should be that it could be yet another approval that is allowed to sit until housing prices increase further and arguably put more stress on the community. Thus, I think biggest issue should be rewards/penalties for building more units sooner and not letting it sit vacant as an investment while property values increase.

As for tract housing, what Brynn Grey has built in Breck and Frisco are not being criticized as being ticky tack tract houses. They are getting a lot of credit for being communities as they are designed with trails that connect and parks so that people get out and see each other.

I guess that is what bugs me so much about City Council's handling of this is that checking Brynn Grey's references (prior and existing projects, surviving Great Recession) suggests they are better and far closer to what we say we want than any other developer making proposals to the city. And instead of being pleased that they are willing to do what we want, city council members are saying "more more more". It is as if we'd be willing to run Billy Kidd, Todd Lodwick and others out of town because they didn't win every competition by at least a minute.

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