A slew of suggestions that need a deeper dive
[ By Mark Reaman ]
The Crested Butte town council received an update on the recommendations of the Housing Task Force that met four times this fall to discuss ways to get more affordable housing in the town. The work session on Monday, October 18 outlined various initiatives that the community development department will incorporate into its 2022 work plan.
The eight-person committee came out with more than two dozen ideas that the staff formulated into recommendations for the council. Those were delineated into seven broad categories with several bullet points incorporated into each category. The primary takeaway was that town staff wants to analyze the ideas before making more solid recommendations. Some of the ideas would be dramatic such as eliminating parking requirements for certain residential units or lowering the minimum size requirement for one-bedroom units from 400 square feet to 350 square feet.
Council members expressed some concern that the recommendations were too specific and needed more public scrutiny before officially becoming part of the staff work plan.
“I understand we can’t get too deep into details in a 30 minute work session but it’s the council’s job to vet these sort of recommendations,” said mayor Jim Schmidt in specific response to the idea of lowering or removing parking requirements in certain circumstances.
“Parking is one example,” said Schmidt. “You can’t just say don’t require parking and think there will be no cars. People like cars. Just look at the school parking lot. We can’t stick our heads in the sand when it comes to such impacts.”
“Perhaps I didn’t set the table well enough,” said planner Patrick Church. “We want to broaden the analysis to include more transit, look at overflow parking spots and the like. The first step is evaluating all the parking issues for potential opportunities with housing. We would be looking at it first before suggesting any action.”
“The committee agrees with you, mayor,” said community development director Troy Russ. “We can’t just lower parking requirements. We have to look at the alternative ways to move around.”
“Some the recommendations in this report are so specific,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “The council needs more than 30 minutes of discussion on these. It feels like a big leap to even include them in a staff work plan.”
“I was surprised too,” said councilmember Chris Haver. “There are a lot of great ideas, but they need a deeper look.”
“Any of the ideas that came out of the task force would be analyzed deeper,” said Russ. “We expect some of these ideas to also come from the Community Compass planning process.”
“To be clear, we are not recommending eliminating parking or lowering the minimum size of units,” said planner Mel Yemma. “Any regulatory change would have its own process. Nothing is being implemented. The idea is to study various ideas that were brought up.”
“So, the question for council is to call out anything not in our realm of interest,” suggested Haver.
“Or see if anything is missing from the list for preliminary vetting,” said councilmember and task force member Ian Billick.
“This is meant to identify things the staff should more closely look at it,” said Church again emphasizing the staff would center on the seven broad categories and then consider specifics for analysis.
Magner said she was not prepared at the work session to direct staff to look at further specifics.
The broad categories list basically included: Evaluate regulation changes to increase things like density allowances to support affordable housing; perform a broad transportation analysis to determine where changes in the parking code could reduce cost of development of affordable housing; consider changes to the town’s vacation rental regulations; evaluate ways to encourage more accessory dwelling units; develop a plan for building, buying and converting properties for the purpose of affordable housing; incentivize and facilitate the development of long-term rental opportunities; and engage in regional collaboration on an affordable housing strategy.
Concerning the regional affordable housing strategy, Russ said the idea was to expand the existing Housing Needs study and work together with regional partners to come up with an actual regional housing plan. “Right now, we just have numbers,” he said.
“It seems to me that should be done before we start any actual building,” said Magner.
“Just look at the Ruby which took a while to fill up,” noted councilmember Mona Merrill. “Everyone wanted to live there and then there were about a dozen applications.”
Russ said he was informed this week that the nine beds in the Ruby had filled up and a small waiting list had started. The town purchased the former Ruby bed and breakfast for $2.3 million with the original intent to supply beds for seasonal employees.
Haver said developing a regional plan will take time and he would “hate to slow down what we’re doing right now. This is a strategy as we move forward through the years.”
Yemma said the current Paradise Park and Sixth and Butte housing projects would help council achieve its long-term goals of having the town populated by 75 -percent year-round residents and having 30-percent of the housing stock in Crested Butte be deed restricted.
“I made the point on the task force that it seems we approached this backwards,” said Billick. “Normally you identify a problem first, then determine how to solve it and then figure out how to fund it. We need to address the issue and really define specifically the problem we’re trying to solve.”
“It seems like with housing you can’t go wrong,” said Schmidt. “It is always needed.”
“There is no silver bullet to solve the problem,” emphasized Church. “But this task force did a great job and found 27 general recommendations and we have a slew of ways to address the situation.”
Councilmember Jasmine Whelan said a lot of the recommendations included in the Task Force report were important. “There are things we can pursue quickly and I don’t want them to just go away.”
CB Housing Task Force Ideas:
A sampling of the brainstorming ideas that came from the task force:
—Lowering or removing parking requirements for certain land uses…when viable transportation options are provided to increase densities for affordable housing where appropriate.
—Not allowing vacation rentals to be used as investment opportunities. This could mean only allowing vacation rental licenses for primary residences.
—Limit on the amount of vacation rental licenses by specific distribution (for example, one license per block).
—Requiring that all accessory buildings have an ADU and/or increase penalties for not building an ADU…
—Increase incentives for building ADUs.
—Target properties that could be converted to workforce housing.
—Target properties that could be purchased and bought down by the Town and resold at lower value with a deed restriction.
—Lowering the minimum size requirements for one-bedroom units from 400 sq. ft. to 350 sq. ft.
—Through regional collaboration, identify specific housing goals that match the needs of the local workforce.
—Evaluate opportunities such as collaborating with Western for use of dorms for seasonal housing.
—Collaborate with the CB Community School on use of facilities by summer seasonal employees (showers, restrooms).
—Higher density allowances for certain zone districts to encourage the construction of affordable housing (for example, allowing a third story for a building to allow for more affordable housing units).