Our view: Risk is part of the game
February 18, 2017
City leaders remain hesitant to move forward with the proposed 450-unit subdivision on the western side Steamboat Springs
While risk assessment is vital to vetting any new project, we think the potential repercussions of not taking action outweigh the risk of moving forward
We were concerned to learn last week that the 450-unit subdivision proposed for the west side of Steamboat Springs remains stalled at an apparent impasse between city leaders and developer Brynn Grey Partners.
During a Feb. 14 meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council, members — though amenable to the concept of the project — remained hesitant to move forward, despite a new proposal from Brynn Grey designed to allay some of the council's concerns.
Specifically, the lingering hesitation on the part of City Council seems to be centered around acquiring and funding water infrastructure and paying for the new subdivision's future water needs.
Brynn Grey has proposed that each buyer of a market-rate home in the new neighborhoods would pay a $16,000 fee to the city that it could use to secure future water sources and infrastructure. The city estimates such a fee could generate $4.8 million.
The developer's proposal stipulates these fees would be paid when the homes are purchased. But several council members fear such an arrangement would take too long to generate adequate funds, and the city wouldn't be able to accomplish anything meaningful or impactful with it in the beginning.
Some council members also expressed concern with the proposal's stipulation to forgo a $1 million secondary water line into the new development until the second phase of the project is underway.
Brynn Grey took a different view, saying the housing units wouldn't generate additional demands for water until and unless they were built. If they are built, the developer argued, the water fees would be collected.
Both sides, it seems, are operating under the belief that the other doesn't have adequate "skin in the game."
Brynn Grey, like any for-profit endeavor, is seeking to maximize the financial gain, and the city, like any municipal government, is looking to minimize the financial risk.
While we understand City Council's fiscal concerns and appreciate its desire to protect taxpayer interests, housing development is seldom a risk-free proposition.
The bottom line is, we stand at a tipping point with regard to the housing crisis, and if we want this development, we need to meet the developer partway.
At the Feb. 14 City Council meeting, members of the local Young Professionals Network stepped forward to encourage city leaders to work toward a partnership with Brynn Grey and get this project moving forward.
"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?" local realtor and YPN member Matt Eidt asked the City Council Tuesday night.
"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," YPN chairperson Reed Jones added.
And while we understand the necessity and the desire to thoroughly vet the proposal, we also agree with the YPN members who spoke in favor of the project.
If we hope to continue growing, we must provide adequate housing opportunities to the burgeoning crop of young professionals and workers who want to make their homes in Steamboat, and if we're to do that, we have to take a leap of faith at some point.
Brynn Grey has a proven track record of successfully developing the sort of housing we need in communities very similar to our own, and while the risks inherent to such a massive undertaking can never be fully eliminated, we think Brynn Grey's proposal — and its willingness to make concessions — work to minimize that risk.
Excessive hesitation often has a chilling effect on opportunities — "paralysis by analysis," as Eidt described it to council members Tuesday; it is our sincere hope that council members will redouble their efforts to find a mutually beneficial way to successfully partner with Brynn Grey on this much-needed development.