In a split vote, Steamboat City Council moves to repeal measure intended to encourage affordable housing

The Reserves provides affordable housing for low-income residents in Steamboat Springs.
Tom Ross

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council moved to repeal inclusionary zoning, the long-dormant city code that required developers create affordable housing within a project or pay a fee to the city.

Steamboat’s Community Housing Code, frequently called inclusionary zoning, required developers to create housing units restricted to people below certain incomes or pay a fee in lieu to the city. Revenue from the fee would be used to build affordable housing.

Inclusionary zoning was put on the books in 2006 and was in place until it was suspended in 2013. That suspension was reviewed in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, and each year, City Council voted to continue the suspension. In 2018, City Council directed staff to draft an ordinance that would permanently repeal the ordinance.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission, an advisory board to the council, opposed the repeal 6 to 1.

Some Planning Commissioners voiced concern at the idea of repealing inclusionary zoning without any policy changes to build affordable housing when community surveys and City Council’s goals name affordable housing as a priority.

Following that meeting, City Council considered repealing the ordinance but tabled the decision until after a joint-work session between the Planning Commission and City Council.

On Tuesday night, the same concerns emerged from some City Council members opposed to the repeal and in public comment.

In public comment, Steamboat residents Diane Brower and John Spezia requested the council keep inclusionary zoning in place.

“I urge you to step back from any effort to repeal inclusionary zoning, look at how it’s being used in other communities and how it could be tailored to create funding for affordable housing needs that exist now and will only become more challenging in coming years,” Brower said, as she asked the council to research other mountain and Western Slope communities that have similar ordinances in place.

Council President Pro Tem Kathi Meyer said residents agreed to a community-housing plan in approving 5A, the property tax supporting the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

“5A is working by providing units,” she said.

Council members Scott Ford and Robin Crossan agreed. Crossan said going to voters was a creative step toward funding affordable housing.

“I just don’t think it’s the right tool, and it’s time to get it off the books, so we can focus on what will actually work,” said Council Member Lisel Petis.

“We’ve looked at this inclusionary zoning without any replacement for a long time,” Council Member Sonja Macys said. “The (Yampa Valley) Housing Authority is making strides. The community has taxed itself, but we’re not doing enough, quickly enough.”

She said it felt like City Council should’ve been able to solve the problem before “taking away one of the tools we have.” Council Member Heather Sloop agreed with Macys and the planning commission, worrying that it would not be brought up again.

Council President Jason Lacy said inclusionary zoning, as written, was not the right policy but questioned if the council wanted to “do the work to get something instead of what we have now or move forward now with a repeal.”

Council answered the question by approving a repeal on first reading 4 to 3, with council members Lacy, Macys and Sloop opposed. The ordinance will go before council for second reading, which could grant final approval of the repeal, at its Aug. 27 meeting.

To view the City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

via:: Steamboat Pilot & Today