Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sun Valley advances housing laws

Final decision could come April 21

Express Staff Writer

Earlier this year, Sun Valley Co. placed an advertisement for 300 job openings in the newspaper. The company received less than 10 responses for the positions.

The apparent difficulty of hiring employees, Sun Valley city officials say, speaks to the need for workforce housing.

Sun Valley City Council members last week continued to work toward approving a multi-faceted workforce-housing plan recommended by the city Planning and Zoning Commission.

The council on Friday, March 25, conducted a second public reading of a pair of proposed workforce-housing ordinances. The first reading was conducted Wednesday, March 23.

Typically, the council adopts ordinances into law immediately after the third public reading, scheduled in this case for April 21.

At issue is the Wood River Valley's first government proposal to require affordable housing to be constructed in conjunction with new developments.

In essence, Sun Valley's two proposed ordinances aim to provide housing for people in jobs created by new development projects, not to alleviate the existing affordable-housing deficit. If approved, the ordinances would mandate workforce housing to be built with nearly all new residential and commercial development projects.

"The two ordinances were developed to (ensure) that new (projects) ... that create new jobs provide for a small portion of the burden that they place on the community going forward," Mayor Jon Thorson said. "These ordinances were not meant to create a social mix in the community. They speak only to the creation of new jobs and the economic burden on this community,"

The city's planned Workforce Housing Fund would create a separate account for promoting workforce housing. The council is considering transferring funds leftover from the 2003-2004 fiscal year budget to the Workforce Housing Fund. The council has discussed transferring some amount less than the $300,000 proposed by the P&Z.

Although the plan aims to provide housing for jobs created by new development, allocating city funds to the housing effort would burden all taxpayers, not just developers. At least one resident agreed with that concept.

"If there is this burden, it should really be spread over all of us," said resident Ross Jennings.

The council has prioritized keeping the money for housing only in Sun Valley.

"I am dead set against our funds created through the ordinance going outside of our community," Councilman Lud Renick said.

The council on Friday also addressed requests from Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co. general manager, to recognize the dorm housing the company provides for its employees.

"I am providing housing, debate the quality, for over 50 percent of the employees I have in the summer," Huffman said.

According to Huffman, the company provides 486 beds for some of its 800 summer employees and 1,400 winter employees. The company houses a percentage of its employees and buses others from Jerome, Twin Falls, Carey and Shoshone to the resort, he said.

City Administrator Virginia Egger told Huffman the housing numbers from the resort's dorms are calculated into estimates for the area's overall affordable-housing deficit. The ordinances under consideration do not address that deficit, she noted.

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