Carbondale neighbors object to addition of Habitat houses |

Carbondale neighbors object to addition of Habitat houses

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – A plan by Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley to build three new houses at the Cleveland Place subdivision has run into opposition from neighbors, who say the development has become a testing ground for the low-income housing program.

Habitat has already built three houses in the densely populated neighborhood located on the west side of Eighth Street in Carbondale, adjacent to the Rio Grande Trail.

The organization, which selects families to purchase houses based on income and their willingness to help build their own homes, had been under contract to buy one of the remaining triplex lots in the development.

However, that particular lot was intended for developer David Hicks to build his required deed-restricted units to be included as part of Carbondale’s community housing program.

The condition was included when the project was originally approved, and any change would require a zoning amendment and full public review process, town attorney Mark Hamilton said.

Habitat now has its eye on another triplex lot at Cleveland Place, where the only restriction is for the units to be occupied by full-time resident owners. That’s the same as the other Cleveland Place homes, and in line with Habitat’s own policies.

But this lot, too, is locked up because the town issued a notice of default in October 2009 preventing the transfer of any more undeveloped lots in the subdivision until Hicks makes good on his requirement to build the town’s affordable housing units.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees could lift that default restriction to allow the sale of the lot to Habitat, which the board considered at its regular Tuesday night meeting. However, several neighbors were on hand to object, and wanted a more formal public hearing process to air their concerns.

“While Habitat for Humanity has been a great program, no other neighborhood in Carbondale has this many Habitat units,” said Kimberly Kihnley, one of the homeowners’ association representatives. “Why are we the testing ground?”

Specifically, some of their concerns revolve around one of the Habitat households, which neighbors say has been a constant source for complaints, ranging from noise and covenant violations to police calls.

Habitat Roaring Fork President Scott Gilbert said Habitat works with its families during the selection process to provide support and coaching about various homeowner responsibilities. But once the house is built and occupied, the relationship is strictly financial.

“Once people are in the home, our role goes from builder/advocate to banker,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting. “We can’t evict them, we’re not a landlord.”

Gilbert said he has tried to intervene in the neighbor dispute at Cleveland Place. Ultimately, though, it’s an issue that needs to be resolved between neighbors, and is not a Habitat issue, he said.

That’s not to say Habitat isn’t willing to work with the neighbors to tailor its rules to fit the neighborhood, including a family size restriction, he said. He noted that two of the existing Habitat households at Cleveland Place have five children each.

“We are incorporating into our selection process and deed a special cap of two adults and three children, in light of the density of the neighborhood,” Gilbert offered in his presentation to the town board. “We have also invited the neighbors to participate in the family selection and ‘family coaching’ process.”

Trustees continued the request until the Feb. 22 meeting, partly because Hicks was out of town and not available to attend this week’s meeting.

“We don’t want to agitate the neighbors,” Gilbert added. “We hope there is a peaceful way to resolve this.”

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