Brothers Gates and Marsh Gooding have entered the city planning process with an innovative plan that would create 15 small single-family home lots on a hillside in the historic neighborhood of Brooklyn. They call it Brooklyn Bluffs.
Gates Gooding purchased a number of platted lots in the Woolery Addition in late January and February from the Yampa Valley Land Trust as well as from another property owner. The lots are on a steep hillside on the western edge of Brooklyn just beneath some of the walking and Nordic skiing trails associated with Howelsen Hill.
Susan Dorsey, executive director of the land trust told Steamboat Today that lots were conveyed to her organization through the estate of the late Gloria Gossard, with the intent they eventually be sold to raise funds for the land trust.
The brothers’ business plan is to sell the lots to individuals, and they hope to live there themselves. But they are also personally motivated to help Steamboat grow from within. They describe the subdivision as a model for how infill development can happen here.
“We’re choosing projects in such a way as to achieve other goals (than pure profit) as well,” Gates said. “We want to have a stake in Steamboat’s future.”
Gates serves on one of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s working groups currently gathering data to support recommendations on the “move-up” segment of the local market.
“This is a good project to measure the town’s political temperature (and) whether this housing issue is a big enough deal we’re actually willing to deal with it,” he said. “If we can pass this, there are a lot of other infill sites much bigger than this one.”
The Gooding brothers said this week they hope to have a positive impact on the supply of community housing through infill development within the existing city limits.
“Marsh and I grew up here and have been gone since college, and now, we’re looking to move back and start families and we’re facing the same difficulties as everyone else,” Gates Gooding said.
Their application is being processed as a “planned unit development,” because of the number of variances from the zoning code that need to be approved.
“To make it work, because of high infrastructure costs (associated with gaining) access, we need higher density than current zoning allows,” Gates said. “We also need to relax a host of other zoning requirements. Without the city’s partnership on this in many different areas, it won’t work.”
Gates Gooding said that he wrote his thesis for a master’s degree in planning during the community debate here over the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation that anticipated expanding the city beyond its western boundary. It was based on modeling different growth scenarios for Steamboat and concluded that based on community priorities, infill was the clear winner.
As a geography major, Marsh Gooding studied urban sustainability theory in college and began to question why the typical approach to growth in American cities is sprawl. He wrote a senior thesis on why infill development is difficult to accomplish.
The brothers point out that current zoning in Old Town Steamboat Springs allows single-family homeowners to have an accessory unit. Brooklyn Bluffs proposes to allow an equivalent number of small footprint homes instead of accessory units.
The brothers acknowledge their project presents numerous challenges.
The average grade of the property is 30 percent. And the brothers propose building a 490-foot interior road, beginning at the intersection of Pearl and Spar streets. At its deepest, the road could require a 25- to 30-foot cut with a retaining wall held in place by soil nails. Building lots will be above and below the road.
The Goodings also anticipate that their neighbors to the east will have concerns — they know the new homes would be built virtually in their back yards. One of the keys to their proposal in that regard is to consolidate numerous existing informal access points to Emerald Mountain with construction of a new public trail ensuring access to the Bluffs Trail above.