Steamboat 700 developers exploring smaller subdivision west of town | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat 700 developers exploring smaller subdivision west of town

— The developers of the Steamboat 700 project, which was rejected by Steamboat Springs voters in March 2010, have been quietly testing the waters again.

Mark Fine, a managing partner taking a lead role in the development entity revisiting Steamboat 700's future, has been in touch with both city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials to see if there could be a path to approving a smaller first phase of the original development.

"The reality is, the other plan, the community wasn't comfortable with it," Fine said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "I spent a lot of time talking to people, and I really came to the conclusion affordable housing is the most feasible thing to do. I just felt that we have an opportunity to maybe build something the community would look at favorably on a going-forward basis. But it has to be something of value to Steamboat or we don't want to be involved."

Fine, whose firm developed the Green Valley and Summerlin master planned communities in Las Vegas, Nevada, clarified that when he refers to affordable housing he is not talking about deed restrictions or subsidies but rather homes that working families can afford.

City Planning Director Tyler Gibbs confirmed Wednesday that he has talked to Fine several times this year about various subjects including the current real estate market and timing.

Fine, accompanied by Danny Mulcahy, who was the public face of the original Steamboat 700, and local attorney Bob Weiss called on the county commissioners during an April 21 public comment period for a conversation that wasn’t reflected on the meeting agenda.

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"We're trying to think about what the best way to proceed is," Weiss told the commissioners during the tape-recorded discussion. "We started thinking about, is there an opportunity to do some incremental developments on a smaller scale in the west of Steamboat area in the county without them being annexed to the city?"

This week, county commissioners sent a letter to city council members asking them if they would be interested in talking about the possibility of altering some of the procedural aspects of the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan and the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan to make it possible for the county to consider issuing a development permit for a first phase of a new Steamboat 700. They were careful to say they would only consider a subdivision within the boundaries of the urban growth boundary (UGB). The implication is that the new subdivision, which would be built to current city standards, would not be annexed right away.

County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski, who in her former role as a member of City Council participated in lengthy discussions about the original Steamboat 700 project, acknowledged that plans to revise the annexation requirement would be controversial. But she believes that the qualitative provisions of the plan could be preserved.

"I re-read the plans and believe that all the policy goals can be achieved with what we are discussing," she wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "Procedure seems to be standing in the way, so I want to discuss that with the city."

Fine said that he is open to working with either the city or the county but emphasized that he is interested in aligning his group's goals with community goals in a desirable residential community.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan told Fine and Weiss in April that in the past he has felt strongly that new subdivisions should be located in existing cities, but that view has moderated with the lack of process.

"Well before the visit from the Steamboat 700 people we (the commissioners) had conversed about our frustration with the lack of affordable housing in Routt/Steamboat, and the lack of any progress towards fulfilling the vision of the WSSAP," he wrote in an e-mail. "The visit from the SB 700 folks simply sharpened the focus of these conversations."

Hermacinski wrote that she too had spent a great deal of time thinking about how to address the inability of the West of Steamboat

Plan to deliver new community housing prior to the April visit from Steamboat 700 proponents.

"This idea has been bouncing around in my head for years, so the visit from (Steamboat 700) wasn’t the impetus for me, although I’m glad there is some flicker of interest in doing something on the west side of town," she said.

Fine described the existing suburban neighborhoods in the county — Heritage Park, Steamboat II and Silver Spur as being beautiful, and speculated that a new Steamboat 700 subdivision might resemble Silver Spur with smaller lots to achieve economies allowing more affordable homes. He said he feels that he needs to get approval to develop 200 dwelling units that could represent seven to 10 years of inventory, in order to create a sense of place in a new subdivision.

"This would give us the ability to do diligence and see if it actually is feasible," Fine said. "We think it is, and it seems to be something everybody wants. We are willing to spend time to make it happen. Whether or not I can do it — I don't have the answer to that. We're doing it against a lot of challenges."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1