Affordable housing issues debated | SteamboatToday.com

Affordable housing issues debated

Brandon Gee

— The Steamboat Springs City Council touched on a subject Tuesday night that could foretell a difficult debate in weeks to come.

Council members Scott Myller and Cari Hermacinski brought up an affordable housing-related issue that philosophically pits the enticement to build such housing against the point of providing it in the first place.

“I’d like to see some relief from architectural standards for affordable housing,” Myller said while the council was considering the first reading of an ordinance adopting the urban design standards and entry corridor concepts for commercial, mixed-use and multifamily developments outside of the mountain base and downtown areas.

Hermacinski agreed. She said expecting the same quality of development from affordable projects that the city requires of other projects is counterproductive.

“There’s such a need for affordable housing in this community,” Hermacinski said. “I’d like to do everything we can to make it cost-effective to do it.”

City planner Jonathan Spence said the city’s planning department has, on principle, taken a strong stance that there should be no difference in architectural standards between affordable projects and others. Spence said the stance has put the planning department at odds with some planning commissioners.

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Councilman Steve Ivancie agreed with Myller and Hermacinski that the city should encourage affordable housing, but noted the potential consequences of relaxing design standards. Noting he didn’t want to say “the ‘G’ word,” Ivancie said it is important that affordable housing doesn’t “stand out.”

The issue also was touched on at last week’s meeting of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission. Chairman Steve Lewis cast the lone “no” vote against the First Tracks affordable housing project being constructed at Wildhorse Meadows. Wildhorse Meadows’ original development plan showed 11 townhouse buildings on the First Tracks parcel. The latest proposal is for four condominium buildings. Lewis said he felt the proposal was “lower class” than the original.

After their discussions, City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the design standards ordinance with no changes but will consider revisions during the ordinance’s second reading in two weeks. Also Tuesday, City Council followed Planning Commission’s 6-1 approval of First Tracks with a unanimous approval of its own.

Other action

n City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would authorize the owners of property benefited by the construction of public improvements to share in their cost. The ordinance would allow developers to recoup some of the cost of constructing infrastructure such as roads and water lines from subsequent developers who benefit from the improvements free of charge.

n Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would restructure the city’s Local Liquor License Authority into two divisions: administrative and compliance.

n Council unanimously approved a proposal by Wildhorse Meadows to leave the historic Butterfly Barn in its current location south of Mount Werner Road.