Wednesday, February 16, 2005

SV eyes multifaceted housing

P&Z paves way for community housing requirements

Express Staff Writer

The floodgates opened for input on community housing issues during a work session scheduled to consider various options for workforce housing regulations for the City of Sun Valley. The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission gathered with the city's consultant and community leaders to consider possible regulations that could drastically change work force housing requirements for new development. The commission outlined their preliminary recommendations of two multifaceted ordinances that could potentially mandate that all new construction, including single family homes, provides a degree of community housing. The commission made headway on the requirements that will receive further consideration at a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 8:30 a.m.

"This is to try to preserve the unique characteristics of this community as you move forward," Michael David, executive director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, explained.

In December, the City Council imposed a 99-day moratorium on the processing of new development applications, for city officials to draft new ordinances regulating community housing. At the recent meeting, Friday, Feb. 11, the P&Z discussed possible regulations with the help of the city's consultant, Melanie Rees.

"Community housing is best accepted when the burden is broadly shared," Rees, the principal for Rees Consulting based in Crested Butte Colorado, stated. She has worked with other mountain communities to draft similar regulations.

Rees gathered with city officials, the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman and County Commission chair Sarah Michael to answer questions about a multi-faceted approach to provide a variety of deed restricted housing for low to moderate income households.

"In a visionary process you have to say who it is that you really want to serve in this community," Rees began. "You can have a broad range and not exclude anybody."

Rees directed the attendees to decide whom the city desired to target for community housing through the income categories established by the Housing Authority. The system categorizes working people according to the percent of the median income earned. Based on the 2000 census for Sun Valley, Rees calculated that half of the community's total population classifies for work force housing.

The approach drew quick criticism as the discussion centered on possible income level targets. Mayor Jon Thorson questioned the relation of income to profession. Huffman questioned the relevancy of the data pertaining to Sun Valley Company employees and the burden on the company as the area's primary employer. He reminded the group the resort provides housing for its employees, housing one-third of its winter employees in the company dorms.

"While I will sit here and tell you I house employees, I will not tell you the quality of the housing is very good," Huffman said. "The additional housing and price is far in excess of what we've invested...Going forward the (housing) has to be nicer. (Units) have to be bigger and better."

As the discussion progressed, Huffman showed support for conservative regulation.

After considering input, the commission directed staff to draft two multifaceted ordinances.

The first ordinance mandates on-site work force housing as a matter of public policy for subdivision and planned unit developments. The zoning approach requires a certain percentage of development be set-aside for affordable housing development. The commission's approach encourages homeownership by targeting higher working population income levels.

The P&Z recommended developers set aside 20-percent of both the development of single family lots and multi-family units for affordable housing. The commission decided the units generated from single family development should average 1,350 square feet of livable space. No more than three attached units will be permitted. The P&Z also decided the multi-family units should be a minimum of 1,000 square feet of livable space.

The second ordinance requires workforce housing according to the number of jobs generated by new commercial and residential construction, including single family homes. The approach considers the number of jobs created in various industries per 1,000 square feet of new construction. The model also considers the number of home maintenance jobs created by the size of residential construction projects.

The approach requires the P&Z to establish a fee per square foot, which is based on housing costs. The fee is paid in lieu to a city fund dedicated to community housing.

Commissioner Ken Herich said he would not support the regulation on residential projects.

The P&Z will consider an appropriate fee for commercial and residential construction, as well as incentives at the next meeting.

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