Planning Commission approves employee housing development

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission has approved a two-story workforce housing structure to be built adjacent to the La Quinta Inn.
Town of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy Photo

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission unanimously approved a two-story workforce housing structure on the south side of the La Quinta Inn on Ingles Drive at a meeting on Thursday, September 22.

During the same meeting, Resort Group successfully received a conditional change of use for the Inn at Steamboat on Columbine Drive, which the company purchased in April and leases to company employees.

The owners of La Quinta have submitted a development plan to the planning commission to build two workforce housing units within the same structure – a 530 square foot unit on the first floor and a 624 square foot unit on the second – totaling 1,154 square feet.

For members of the planning commission, the project was a layup approval. The property is zoned community commercial, which allows for labor, deed-restricted use, and the proposed building would be close enough to existing sidewalks and utilities that additional infrastructure would not be required.

“La Quinta owners find it necessary to house their employees,” said Scott Myller, the project’s architect. “I think they should be commended for keeping this hotel, we’ve seen many hotels move to long term rentals and I think it’s important to keep hotels in our community.”

After the La Quinta Development Plan was approved, the resort group presented to the Planning Commission requesting that their conditional use for the Inn at Steamboat be changed from multifamily to dormitory.

The Inn at Steamboat closed on Sunday, April 10, 2022. It was purchased by Resort Group and will serve as employee housing.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today.

Although the resort group has been renting out the hostel‘s 34 rooms since its purchase in April, the owners felt it was appropriate to change its conditional use to dormitory because the single rooms do not have kitchens and because the property will be renting to both seasonal and long term tenants.

“Affordable hotels in Steamboat seem like a thing of the past,” Steamboat resident John Reese wrote to the planning commission. “I realize that the need for housing for service staff is necessary, but this proposal solves one problem and creates another.”

Mark Walker, the chairman of the Resort Group, appeared before the planning commission and argued on behalf of his company.

“Short-term rental is where I work,” Walker said. “Ironically, there’s a lot of feedback from the community that they don’t want short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.”

Walker said he was then caught off guard by people saying they didn’t want long-term tenants staying at the Inn at Steamboat because it could lower the value of their property.

“We’ve stepped up in a big way, in my view and many business people I’ve spoken to, to help solve our employee housing crisis,” Walker said.

The Inn at Steamboat is made up of 31 one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom suites. Single rooms would have a maximum occupancy of two people while suites would allow 4 tenants, which would limit the building’s total occupancy to 74 people.

Although no substantial upgrades were needed, the contestants did have to add a few bike racks.

While some of the planning commissioners admit to having reservations, they all support the applicant’s request.

Commission Member Robert Rusher Jr. asked if there would be staff on site to manage the property, which the claimant assured there were.

“That’s why I had questions about management,” Rusher Jr. said. “to make sure it’s just not some kind of dorm-run-amok in the middle of the neighborhood.”

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