Basalt staff recommends housing waiver for project

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

BASALT – The Basalt Town Council is being advised by its staff to waive affordable-housing requirements for an assisted-care and retirement community proposed by a nonprofit organization.

The recommendation came after a consultant performed a fiscal analysis of the project and determined that applying the housing requirements would create a funding “gap” for the project developer, the Aspen Valley Foundation. The foundation would have to “rethink the project as proposed” if the affordable housing is required, according to Bruce Kimmel, senior financial adviser for Minnesota-based Ehlers Inc. The firm was hired by Town Manager Mike Scanlon to look at the financial viability of the retirement community and the Aspen Valley Foundation’s ability to undertake the project.

Ehlers found no “red flags,” but some issues need further review as the project takes shape, the report said.

The Aspen Valley Foundation wants to build the 148-unit Continuing Care and Retirement Community on vacant land in the Southside neighborhood, near Basalt High School. The project would include 78 independent-living units, 18 cottages, 28 assisted-living units and 24 skilled-nursing units. They would be built in phases.

Basalt’s town code requires two different types of affordable housing. First, any project requiring annexation has to build “inclusionary housing.” Second, projects must offset a fraction of the employees they require.

Ehlers’ report indicates that those housing requirements are too onerous for the nonprofit organization. Based on that report, the town planning staff and Scanlon recommended that the council waive the requirement for 39 affordable-housing units based on the annexation, according to a memo to the council from James Lindt, assistant planning director. The town code allows the requirement to be waived for nonprofit projects, he wrote.

The staff also advised the council to give the Aspen Valley Foundation “credit” so it wouldn’t have to provide additional housing to offset the employees the project would generate. The retirement community would generate an estimated 88 jobs. Under the town’s current affordable-housing mitigation requirements, the foundation would have to provide 10 residences to offset those jobs.

The town staff advised the council to give the foundation partial credit for waiving entry fees on 12 of its proposed units at the retirement community. Waiving the entry fee would theoretically make the 12 units more affordable and ensure the project is more diverse. The staff recommended granting 75 percent credit on the 12 units, offsetting the need to build nine of 10 affordable-housing units. If the council accepts the credit, the foundation would have to provide one additional unit to offset employees or pay $266,000 cash in lieu of housing.

The Town Council is scheduled to review the recommendation at its regular meeting Tuesday. The retirement community is scheduled to be heard at 6:40 p.m.