Steamboat ski area’s workforce housing may be violating city codes for density
November 18, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Ski Area's workforce housing units at the Ponds might not be getting more cramped for some seasonal workers after all.
The city of Steamboat Springs last week informed Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. that packing six workers into an 860-square-foot, two-bedroom unit featuring a pair of bunk beds could be illegal.
But the living arrangement remained in a sort of legal limbo as the city started reviewing a 27-year-old planning document for the property that the resort says allows it to have a higher occupancy rate than other similar housing units in the city.
The ski area last year started adding the six-person units at a time the city's rental market was growing more expensive and scarce.
This season, the resort plans to increase the number of these six-person units to 30.
But city codes limit the occupancy of multi-family units in the city to five unrelated individuals.
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After receiving a complaint from a citizen about the living arrangement, the city this week told the resort it might be a code violation if there are six people living in the same unit at the Ponds.
In a memo to the Steamboat Springs City Council, City Attorney Dan Foote floated the possibility of taking enforcement action against the resort if there were six people living in the same unit.
However, the plot thickened somewhat Friday afternoon.
Foote said he was in the process of reviewing a 1990 planning document for the Ponds apartment complex to check whether the property's custom zoning plan, called a planned unit development, allows for more than five unrelated individuals in each room.
"I am told that at the time, the maximum occupancy limit was three persons, but it was contemplated there could be more than three," Foote said. "There's some potential that the (planned unit development) could change the rules."
Ski Area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said Friday the resort thinks the six-person units are in compliance with the planning documents the city approved 27 years ago.
Foote said he didn't expect to find an answer before the weekend to the question of whether or not the 1990 zoning approvals do indeed allow the six-person units.
If the six-person housing arrangement is found to be illegal, the Ponds would lose the 30 beds for seasonal workers.
The ski area could then choose to go through city planning to seek approval for using the property as a dormitory. But that process takes weeks and likely wouldn't be resolved until after the ski season started.
Foote said city officials, including the fire chief, toured one of the Ponds units that can house six people Friday.
"They could be a lawful dormitory per the building and fire codes," Foote said.
Kasten said the six-person units include a bunk bed and a regular bed in each of the bedrooms. The units are a total of 860 square feet and cost the residents $255 a month.
The ski area's decision to add more beds to existing units drew some criticism from community members.
Robert Boyd said he was "appalled" by the news.
"Minus modern plumbing and heating, open-air tents and a warmer California climate, this description of living conditions is reminiscent of the 1840s Gold Rush days," Boyd wrote. "Why don't you try to cram more people in there?"
The city code that caps the number of unrelated individuals living together in a multi-family unit was adopted in 1991, Foote said.
"The City relies on these provisions to mitigate impacts to neighboring properties," he wrote in a memo this week to the city's elected officials.
Kasten said ski area employees are only placed in the six-person unit if they choose to be.
"We do ask employees if they would like to be in that unit," she said.
The Ponds also features two -and four-person units.
The housing complex has 486 beds and can accommodate about a quarter of the resort's winter workforce.
Kasten said the resort was continuing to work with the city to determine whether the housing arrangement is in compliance with city codes.