Affordable housing projects to the rescue in Basalt, midvalley?
POSSIBLE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECTS
•Crawford Properties LLC has applied to expand the 298-unit El Jebel Mobile Home Park. It wants to add 46 two- and three-bedroom modular homes. All would be rentals, according to a spokesman for the company. The project will be reviewed by Eagle County.
•A nonprofit and special taxing district might team to add housing. Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork is exploring a partnership with the Roaring Fork School District that could produce 40 affordable housing units. They are assessing property owned by the school district near Basalt High School. Habitat would raise the money for construction. They are looking at the possibility of 20 duplexes. The project hasn’t reached review stage but they would likely seek annexation into Basalt.
•Two projects under review by Eagle County have affordable housing components, but have also faced considered opposition because of the overall density. The Fields is proposing 98 housing units. The county code requires 25 percent of the units to be affordable housing.
Eagle County is also reviewing the Tree Farm application, which proposed up to 400 residences and 135,000 square feet of commercial development in the El Jebel area. Eagle County’s affordable housing regulations would apply.
•Eagle County government is assessing a possible purchase of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service adjacent to Crown Mountain Park in the El Jebel area. If the land is acquired, the county could consider working with a developer to provide between 175 to 225 affordable housing units, a county concept paper said. The project is in its infancy.
The free market is trying to answer the call for more affordable housing in the middle Roaring Fork Valley after the improving economy absorbed nearly every unit in the rental pool.
A project that would provide 156 deed-restricted and free-market “attainable” units inched ahead in Basalt’s review process last week when the Town Council found it was eligible for consideration of annexation.
The Stott’s Mill project was approved by Basalt in 2009 for 110 housing units. The developer, MSP1, wasn’t able to get started before the economy cratered. Now it has revived the project and increased the total proposed units to 156.
Mark Chain, the land-use planner for the project, said Monday that the development firm envisions 60 single-family homes and 96 multi-family units spread across four buildings.
The project will comply with Basalt’s affordable-housing requirements and the intent is to keep the remaining units attainable for residents of the valley, Chain said. The philosophy is to keep it “affordable by design,” he said. The single-family lot sizes will be relatively narrow — 28 and 42 feet wide — so house sizes will be restricted, Chain said. Small houses will, in theory, sell for less than other free-market residences.
The current plan is to rent a significant number of the multi-family units, he said.
James Lindt, assistant planning director for the town, said 25 percent of the square footage of residential projects and 20 percent of the total units must be sold or rented under the town’s affordable guidelines.
That would require 31 units at Stott’s Mill to be rented or sold at prices set by the town’s affordable-housing guidelines. The square footage figures haven’t been calculated yet. The project must still go through extensive review by the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and Town Council. Chain said the developers hope to start infrastructure work this year.
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said rental projects weren’t feasible during the recession and recovery, but they “look a lot more doable now” because of the high demand.
“There’s such a dearth of rental,” he said.
Scanlon learned that firsthand. The house he is renting in Basalt is going up for sale and he must move. He said a number of houses and condominiums that were in the rental pool are now being sold.
“They might have missed the last opportunity to sell and they’re not going to miss this one,” Scanlon said. Other units are being rented short term through venues such as Airbnb.
The Stott’s Mill project is located in the Southside neighborhood, near Basalt High School. The property is adjacent to the Rio Grande Trail.
The project joins a growing list of projects in the midvalley that are being built, reviewed or pondered.
The developer of Willits Town Center is well into construction of a building that will include 50 apartments that will be rented at prices set by Basalt’s affordable-housing guidelines. Another part of the building will feature 18 condominiums, 14 of which will be purchased by the Roaring Fork School District for teachers and other employees. The town of Basalt and Basalt Fire District will purchase two condos each for their employees.
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Basalt mayoral candidates Bill Kane and Rob Leavitt said at a Feb. 10 forum they endorsed the town government’s $1.34 million expenditure to expand a riverfront park. Candidate and councilman Bill Infante said not so fast and provided an alternative view.