New workforce housing development approved by Steamboat Council, despite recommendations to deny
Project includes self-storage units on ground floor in addition to 24 housing units. the development, which is in an industrial zone district, was recommended for denial by city staff and the Planning Commission.
Despite recommendations to deny a project from the planning commission and planning staff, Steamboat Springs City Council approved a 24-unit workforce housing project in an open field along 13th Street on Tuesday.
The project, which is located in an industrial zone district, also includes 32 self-storage spaces that the developer Kruse Builders says will be available to the public and not just residents of the 12-building complex.
The issue with the project for both the planning commission and planning staff was that these storage spaces being paired with small, 300-square-foot, residential units was not compatible with the industrial zone district or the city’s community plan. Staff saw the project as essentially residential, with storage units being an accessory use of the residential units, and not a use all on its own.
Despite those recommendations, council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to approve the project, emphasizing the city’s desperate need for workforce housing (and to a lesser extent self-storage) was a big enough reason to support the project.
“People need housing,” said council member Michael Buccino, who supported the project. “We should be accepting this, even though staff’s interpretation went down a trail of this is residential, nothing else matters.”
Consideration of the project was actually postponed at the start of June as council’s lengthy meeting agenda resulted in consideration not starting until late into the night, and the taxed council felt it lacked a complete understanding of the city’s code to make a decision at the time. When considered Tuesday (after 10 p.m. once again) applicant Calais Kruse strongly disagreed with city staff’s interpretation of the project and that staff’s “subjective” arguments for why the project should be denied were irrelevant.
Kruse also argued that while not a use by right, self-storage has often been approved in industrial zone districts before, the only difference here was this project included housing and had “pretty siding on it.”
“Why would we pass up an opportunity to add much-needed housing to this routinely approved use?” Kruse said.
The project was the first to go through the city’s expedited process for workforce housing projects. To be considered workforce housing, some of the units need to be reserved for workers who have jobs physically in Routt County. There are no income restrictions with the units nor is there a cap on what they can be rented or sold for, though Kruse said the project was designed to be affordable.
Still, Kruse said the project was designed to be affordable, potentially targeting workers in the 80% area median income range, which amounts to a single person making just under $61,000 a year, according to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.
While the project does largely comply with the city’s development code, it did not in city staff’s mind meet the criteria for issuing a conditional use. Of the four-question test for conditional uses, it only met one of the criteria, Planning Director Rebecca Bessey said. The criteria it did meet was that it did comply with development code requirements.
However, the project failed to align with the purpose of the industrial zone district, was not compatible with the community plan for the area and that it failed to mitigate impacts to surrounding properties, the planning staff report says.
During the discussion, it appeared the decision could go either way, as council member Heather Sloop had recused herself due to a conflict of interest with the project, making the potential for a 3-3 tie very possible. Council president Robin Crossan and member Joella West both did not support the project, while members Buccino, Gail Garey, Ed Briones and Dakotah McGinlay each voted for approval.
Top Photo Caption: A concept design for a 12-building, 24-unit workforce housing development along 13th Street on Steamboat Springs' west side. (Kruse Builders/Courtesy)