Steamboat OKs new strategy to address housing needs
City Council approves construction of dorms within industrial, commercial districts
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Some employers looking to build worker dormitories in Steamboat Springs’ industrial and commercial zone districts will now be able to do so.
The new policy comes as a result of a change in municipal code, which Steamboat Springs City Council passed unanimously Tuesday, Dec. 14, with council member Heather Sloop recusing herself because she owns property in the industrial district.
“This is the city’s strategy to provide more seasonal housing options and address seasonal housing needs,” said Toby Stauffer, Steamboat senior planner.
The idea surfaced after a study by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and City Council’s affordable housing subcomittee identified a code amendment allowing dorms in the industrial zones as one potential solution for the city’s affordable housing crisis.
Most of the industrial district sits in the Copper Ridge and 13th Street areas.
Stauffer said that because the Steamboat Springs Transit office is on 13th Street, city staff could use the amended code to build dormitories for Steamboat’s seasonal bus drivers in the winter and the city’s parks and recreation crew members in the summer — two positions the city has struggled to fill.
Planning commissioners agreed the dormitories must be within 600 feet of a business to ensure the zone retains its primary use. Dorms also must be affiliated with a business or school. Otherwise, planning commissioners would need to grant a conditional-use permit.
The Steamboat Springs Community Development Code defines a dormitory as a residential facility designed specifically for housing more than five unrelated persons in sleeping rooms with private or shared sanitation facilities and shared kitchen facilities.
Though she recognized the need for affordable housing, council member Gail Garey also wanted to ensure the dorms would provide a dignified and safe living space for the workforce living in them.
“I certainly understand the need for immediate workforce housing to solve the issues that we have today,” Garey said. “But I wanted to know that we have things in place to make sure we don’t have substandard living conditions.”
In response, Stauffer said the dorms will have to meet specific building codes that include a certain amount of space for dwelling units and sleeping units.
The city does not currently follow an inspection process, but Stauffer added that Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue could begin conducting safety inspections on dorms.
Because living conditions are typically maintained by landlords, Stauffer said it may be difficult for the city to have more oversight beyond basic inspections and granting permits for initial use.
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