Affordable apartments on the ropes
BASALT An arm of Catholic Charities is clinging to hope that it can build 60 low-income rental apartments in Basalt despite another setback for its plan earlier this month.Archdiocesan Housing Executive Director Josh Russell said the demand for affordable housing has never been greater in the midvalley, so the organization keeps seeking an appropriate site in Basalt.The organization wanted to build 60 one-, two- and three-bedroom units on a site businessman David Fiore owns adjacent to Basalt High School. Russell said the housing would have been reserved for households with annual incomes between $27,320 and $67,920. Rents would have ranged from $660 to $1,400 per month – making it some of the most affordable housing in the midvalley.The proposal stumbled before it even made it to the review stage. Basalt officials determined July 11 that Fiore’s site wasn’t appropriate for high-density development. The Town Council and planning commission want to preserve a rural buffer in that area.Russell said Archdiocesan Housing will continue exploring options with Fiore. “David is a great partner, and we’re going to stick it out with him,” he said.Fiore was willing to provide land at low cost to the nonprofit housing organization. In return, some of the proposed apartments would have been used for replacement housing for residents living in Fiore’s Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park.One of the town’s highest priorities in the past has been relocating residents and closing down the 51-unit trailer park in the heart of Basalt because of flooding risks. Fiore wants to redevelop the trailer park – building a mixed commercial and residential project on five acres and donating four acres along the Roaring Fork River for a town park.The town code allows him to redevelop only if he provides replacement housing for the 51 units in the trailer park.In addition to the 60 apartments Archdiocesan Housing proposed, Fiore wanted to build 27 additional affordable housing units by the high school. His project, called Sopris Chase, was widely supported in Basalt. Proponents felt it was the last chance to provide a large affordable housing project, given soaring land costs.Archdiocesan Housing has tried and failed for almost six years to get a project rolling in Basalt. The nonprofit organization teamed with different developers on a plan earlier this decade in the South Side area of Basalt. The plan was withdrawn because of neighborhood opposition.Rather than take its money and run, Archdiocesan Housing will continue exploring options with Fiore, Russell said. The organization received $2 million from the proceeds of a sale of land donated by the estate of Fritz and Fabi Benedict. The funds have to be used for affordable housing between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.The $2 million gift couldn’t build a 60-unit affordable housing project, but the funds would leverage other grants, Russell said. Archdiocesan Housing also has access to low-interest loans and tax credits to help build housing.The organization owns 1,400 affordable housing units in Colorado, including 61 units in Carbondale and 55 in Glenwood Springs. The Roaring Fork Valley projects are extremely popular because affordable housing is so scarce, Russell said.”We’ve got people moving in that have been waiting for two years,” he said.Russell and Fiore are looking at several alternatives to build a project in Basalt, including an appeal to town officials to revisit their decision to exclude the Sopris Chase site from the town’s urban growth boundary.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.