Snowmass Town Council mulls proposal for regional housing authority | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Town Council mulls proposal for regional housing authority

Two Roaring Fork Valley residents are proposing a regional approach to tackling one of the valley's greatest challenges: affordable workforce housing.

At a Snowmass Town Council work session May 8, an ex-town attorney and a former city planner pitched their idea to create a multi-jurisdictional housing authority that would include Snowmass Village.

The lack of affordable workforce housing across the state is "an epidemic-type problem," said former Snowmass Village town attorney David Myler.

Myler reasoned that the longstanding housing crunch is the responsibility of the individual regions to resolve, as it is unlikely the state and federal government will do so.

"If you think of the Roaring Fork Valley as a single community with a fairly mobile workforce, it starts to make sense to think about trying to produce housing for the workforce, unrelated to the housing that is generated from the development process, on a regional basis," said Myler, who now resides in Basalt. "We're one community; we ought to get together and work together and figure out where the housing belongs, who it's going to be targeted to and buy the land and get it built. Or, in some cases, buy units and deed-restrict it."

He added: "There are a myriad of options that could be pursued in order to increase the inventory of housing available to our workforce without tying it into, or needing it to be tied into, the development approval process."

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The proposed authority would pursue "a regional approach to the acquisition of land and the production of workforce housing," according to a memorandum to "interested parties" from Myler and Bill Lamont, a former Front Range city planner and current resident of Carbondale.

The "interested parties," or local governments the pair have approached, include municipalities within Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.

As a stand-alone government, voter-approved tax revenue and impact fees would fund the housing authority, which would cap the sales tax at 1 percent or five mils of property tax and impact fees, the memo states.

Eagle County, Garfield County, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have each "expressed an interest" in the proposed authority, Myler told the Snowmass Sun after the presentation Monday.

Though he and Lamont had yet to meet formally before Pitkin County officials as of Monday, Myler said, "We're fairly certain they'll want to participate based on input from (Pitkin County Commissioner) Steve Child."

Myler and Lamont were slated to present their idea before Pitkin County Commissioners on May 9 after the Snowmass Sun's press deadlines.

The memo also noted: "Aspen and Snowmass Village have indicated that they would not likely be members but may participate in the regional housing programs via contract."

As a whole, the council, which was deliberating the idea for the first time Monday, neither dismissed nor agreed to partake in the authority.

However, the council seemed to express interest in collaborating on a project-by-project basis in the future.

One area of interest, in particular, involved Snowmass' aging population.

"We have had some conversations (that) Snowmass is probably not the best place to age," said Snowmass Councilman Bill Madsen, noting, "a regional approach" may be an area to look towards down the pipeline.

Town housing director Joe Coffey indicated his desire to house Snowmass employees in Snowmass and also develop more housing within the village.

"I think our employees, as much as possible, should be housed up here. I've always felt like that," said Coffey, who's worked in the town's Housing Department for nearly 40 years.

"We're housing about 700 people up here, a little bit more actually. For a village this size, I think that's very commendable," he said. "I'd like to see us build some more up here."

Coffey added, "I really think that the lower valley needs to step up and do something with housing."

In a conversation after the presentation Monday, the housing director thanked Myler and Lamont and said, "I support what you're doing; it's just that I'm more focused up here right now.

"I can see with a specific project where it might really benefit us," Coffey said. "And I think the council sees that, too."

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