RALF eyes housing options

Foundation may return to Planning with plans for Fox Creek

In an emergency board session, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation did not rule out coming back to the city Planning Commission or the City Council with plans for its Fox Creek self-help housing subdivision.

The group also had "the briefest of preliminary discussions" on looking in surrounding towns for land to house its project, RALF treasurer Kathi Meyer said.

"At this point, we are looking at all options," Meyer said. "We hope to move forward, to come forth with something in the next week or two."

Negative feedback Jan. 22 from the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on the Fox Creek self-help housing project prompted the RALF board to hold the emergency meeting Thursday.

If the project is not approved, it could jeopardize a $390,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that stipulates RALF must build 24 homes in 24 months.

RALF proposed the 36-unit development off Hilltop Parkway that would provide 17 units for self-help housing. The self-help program gives residents a chance to own their home by requiring them to put in hundreds of hours to help build it.

One self-help housing project with seven units already is successfully under way in West End Village. Under the grant requirements, 17 more units must be built by October 2005.

"We are hoping to make something happen this summer for another group of families," Meyer said.

Hands-on Housing Project Program Manager Ellen Hoj had hoped two self-help housing projects in Fox Creek could be started this summer.

The Planning Commission's negative feedback on the Fox Creek project and request for Hoj to come back with an improved plan has the potential to stall the project until 2005, she said after the meeting.

The project, which was presented to the Planning Commission as a pre-application plan, includes four three-plex buildings and four six-plex buildings on a piece of land just off Hilltop Parkway. Planning commissioners said they would not be willing to accept the plan presented. Commissioners were concerned about the lack of trail connections and sidewalks, the orientation of buildings, landscaping, setbacks and lack of architecture.

Some also questioned if the project was appropriate for a site zoned as community commercial and suggested looking at a mixed-use site.

Hoj told the commission that the 17 self-help housing units would be going to people such as employees of the U.S. Forest Service and sheriff's office, to a son of a senator and artists. The goal of the project is to make the houses affordable for families earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of the local median income.

With the city's current zoning and regulations imposed by the USDA, Hoj told the commissioners, the Hilltop Parkway parcel was the only parcel available for development in the city limits. The USDA puts restrictions on building sites near airports, railroads and in floodplains.

To keep in step with the USDA grant regulations, self-help housing program officials were hoping to have infrastructure completed by late spring. The timeline has one self-help housing group pulling building permits this summer and a second group pulling permits later in the summer.

At the Jan. 22 meeting, planning staff suggested that if significant changes were made to the site plan, it should come back to the Planning Commission before going to the City Council.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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