S’thorne asks planning commission to embrace affordable housing
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
SILVERTHORNE ” Call it a case of trying to get everyone singing from the same hymnal: The town council and its planning commission met recently to ensure that commissioners are on board with Silverthorne’s desire for more affordable housing.
Silverthorne’s council agenda is to supply affordable housing to its locals as a matter of community interest, Mayor Dave Koop said to planning commissioners present at Wednesday’s town council work session.
“When you rely on business (for funding), you need housing for staff,” Koop said. “Without housing, you’re not going to get staffing.”
The town depends on sales taxes for 70 percent of its budget.
“We need to keep the retail end going to continue,” Koop added.
The mayor doesn’t want to cut back town services, and he hopes retail will continue to flourish.
“Without affordable housing and staffing, that’s major,” Koop said. “I want a cross-section of all ages, a normal community. Economics requires a full range of housing. … I don’t want Disneyland. I want this to be a home.”
Council also expressed concerns about planning commissioners expressing negative comments about affordable-housing development aesthetics in discussions about the Smith Ranch development.
Density of a development is an acceptable concern for planning commission meetings, but aesthetics is not, said Mark Leidal, Silverthorne’s community-development director.
“I really appreciate comments on density issues, et cetera, so I hope you know that we respect your comments,” Leidal said.
The role of the commission is to review land-use permits and regulations and make recommendations based on code.
But social, financial and political regulations aren’t relevant to planning commissioners’ roles, he said.
“You can’t just deny something because you don’t like it,” Councilwoman Peggy Long said. “That’s not enough to merit denial.”
The council, however, did not discourage planning commissioners to express opinions.
Councilman Bruce Butler asked that commissioners give their opinions to council through letters and by attending council meetings as citizens.
It’s not a concern unique to Silverthorne, according to Jenn Cram, a Breckenridge planner.
“Decisions regarding an application need to be based on the code,” she said.
Commissioners need an outlet to express their opinions, Cram added.
The Breckenridge Town Council often schedules work sessions in which planning commissioners have the opportunity to express their opinions.
Council sets the policies, and then the planning commission enforces the code, said Eric Mamula, a Breckenridge councilman who also served on the town’s planning commission last year.
“It’s difficult to stay focused on the code,” Mamula said “It’s easy to say we don’t like something because it’s ugly. … It makes it difficult to be a planning commissioner. You may dislike a project that you have to pass.”
The planning commission also can send code revisions to council.
“(Affordable housing) is a necessary item,” Koop said. “Look beyond yourself and see the greater good for the community. … If it’s not right, you’ve got to say no.”
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