Approval of Snowmass questions would help affordable housing |

Approval of Snowmass questions would help affordable housing

The employee-housing program at Snowmass Village could enjoy a substantial windfall if voters approve two ballot questions next Tuesday.

Tax referendums usually ask residents to tighten their belts for a greater community good. But town officials are assuring voters that this time a yes vote will be painless for most residents.

“As with all tax questions, everybody hesitates before voting,” said town Councilman Doug Mercatoris. “But this is about voluntary taxes. There’s been some confusion over what the questions mean. But basically it’s giving people the opportunity to heavily mitigate themselves for a very good cause.”

If passed, the proceeds generated from both questions would be dedicated to employee housing. Both taxes are also only triggered on a voluntary basis – when homeowners elect to either remove a caretaker unit or build homes larger than allowed in current building codes.

The first ballot question gives the town authority to keep a $207,000 “fine.” The second question gives homeowners an option of paying into a housing fund if they want to exceed the allowed floor space for their residence.

Financial Question 1 asks voters to allow a homeowner to remove an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) if he agrees to offer up money for employee housing.

There isn’t a “run” on requests to get rid of ADUs, said Town Manager Gary Suiter. In fact, there’s only been one instance where someone first agreed to build a caretaker unit then decided against it.

But that single instance is what prompted the ballot question.

It was determined that mitigation for the ADU would be $207,000. But simply accepting the fine would push the town over the amount Snowmass Village is allowed to collect under the TABOR state taxpayer laws.

So essentially the town is asking voters to give it permission to keep the fine, plus any future fines, to be used for building housing or acquiring land for housing.

Financial Question 2 asks voters to allow single-family homeowners to exceed the maximum floor area in exchange for paying money into the affordable housing program. However, homeowners are limited in how much they can exceed the limit – 550 square feet or 10 percent of the maximum allowable floor area for the lot.

“That’s about the size of a bedroom, so we’re not going to produce monster homes with this. It just allows people to pay for more space for a very good cause,” Mercatoris said.

“Historically, people have gotten very creative in order to bend the provisions of the code,” Suiter noted. “This is a way to not break the rules and also benefit employee housing at the same time. Employee housing is the bottom line winner here.”

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