Snowmass housing plan turning heads |

Snowmass housing plan turning heads

Sarah S. Chung

Snowmass Village’s plan to generate new income for employee housing through a tax on large homes is attracting the attention of other resorts around the state.

The problem is, Snowmass officials haven’t yet figured out how to make that plan work.

Last November, the town’s voters agreed to take advantage of a sentiment that bigger is better – but only if it can contribute to the common good. They approved an excise tax that allows homeowners to exceed the maximum floor area regulations in exchange for a fee that will be used exclusively for employee housing.

The Snowmass Village council is still figuring out the mechanics of how the tax should be enacted. In the meantime, Town Hall has been getting numerous calls from officials at other resorts, said Town Manager Gary Suiter.

“As far I as I know we’re the only resort that’s tried to do something like this,” said Suiter. “I’ve had several calls asking, `What are you guys doing over there?’ My answer is, `We’re putting a demand to work for us instead of against us.’

“The challenge is not building a resort, but building a community. And Snowmass Village and Pitkin County have always been in the forefront of finding ways to do that.”

Since the excise tax was approved three months ago by a comfortable 66 percent margin, the Town Council has been struggling to find the right formula to put the plan into action.

The trick is to balance maximizing funds for employee housing while making the fee attractive enough for people to use, council members say.

“It has to be fair and saleable,” said Councilman Jack Hatfield.

“The threshold issue is how much people will pay,” agreed Mayor T. Michael Manchester.

By the end of a work session held this week, the council leaned toward a fee that would equal 60 percent of the cost of building the addition.

In the ballot language, the addition “may not exceed 550 square feet or 10 percent of the maximum allowable floor area for the lot, whichever is less.”

For example, if someone wanted to build a 300-square-foot addition in Melton Ranch, 60 percent of the cost would be about $36,000. At The Pines, the number would be around $109,000.

“There would be a natural balance of neighborhoods,” said Manchester. “If a house is worth more it will cost more.”

A concern raised by several council members, however, is staying true to how the tax was presented to voters.

“Just philosophically, I told people that 99.5 percent of the town would not have to deal with it. It was presented as something not many people would take advantage of,” said Councilman Kevin Costello.

“We told people this would be one mechanism to build employee housing, that we didn’t want the community to blow up,” agreed Hatfield.

Despite the consensus on the 60 percent mark, the council put off a final decision until the town staff can research the differences between the county’s assessed value and the market value of a house in Snowmass Village.

A first reading on the excise tax will be held Feb. 7; the tax’s second reading is scheduled for Feb. 21.

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