Carbondale teacher housing proposal earns P&Z nod
CARBONDALE – A plan by the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 to build affordable teacher housing on 12 acres of school property in Carbondale earned a favorable nod from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.The commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval of both the site plan, plus an amendment to the earlier approved zoning for the property, increasing the number of residential units from 89 to 120 and establishing a site for a new public library at the corner of Sopris Avenue and Third Street.Next up for the proposal will be a public hearing before the Carbondale Board of Trustees, who hold the final decision. The hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.”I think it does meet the provisions of our comprehensive plan,” P&Z member Bill Spence said before offering the motion to recommend approval of the project.”What we’re really talking about, though, is the health of our public schools, and the schools are having a tough time retaining teachers because of the cost of living,” he said.He was joined by P&Z Chairman Ben Bohmfalk and commission member Lori Cornish in favoring the recommendation.Commission member Lorey Esquibel voted against the recommendation, saying the increase in residential units would make the project too dense.”Everything’s too packed in,” she said. “The quality of life element is where I have a hang-up with this.”The project is planned for the open field between the Bridges Center (former Carbondale Middle School) and the former elementary school building, which is now the Third Street Center for nonprofit organizations.According to the plan, at least 80 percent of the units will be deed-restricted to meet the affordable housing requirements set forth by the town in earlier approvals. The units would be offered first to teachers and other staff in the school district, and then be made available to other public employees in Carbondale.”Our hope is to pre-sell the units before we build them,” said Chuck Perry, planner with the Denver-based Jonathan Rose architectural firm, with which Re-1 contracted to do the project.”We will build them as fast as we can pre-sell them,” he said.The project would be built in phases. Some of the residential units may also be rentals, although specifics have not yet been worked out.P&Z members asked that a planned road connection between Third Street and Weant Boulevard be built in the first phase to help ease traffic congestion in the neighborhood related to construction, and once the first residential units come on line.The library site that’s now included with the plan calls for a single-story library building at the northeast corner of the property, where the abandoned tennis courts now sit. The site was the preferred option for a new town library through a community planning process. The Garfield County Public Library District is building new and renovated libraries in each of the six towns.The housing project remains about $1 million short of funds needed to proceed, Perry said.However, Garfield County’s recent decision to kick in nearly $1 million toward the project could help leverage the school district’s efforts to obtain state funding.”That’s definitely our plan,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent for Business Shannon Pelland said.Last year, the district had applied jointly with the town of Carbondale for a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy Impact Grant to help fund both the town’s efforts to convert the old elementary school building into a community nonprofit center, as well as to do some preliminary infrastructure work on the teacher housing site.The town was awarded $750,000 for its efforts. However, a separate $2 million grant application submitted by the school district was rejected.Now, though, the Energy Impact grant program is up in the air due to the state budget crisis, Pelland also said.”A lot of that funding has been rerouted to balance state budget,” she said. “DOLA told us they think there will be a grant cycle next year, but they don’t know when it will be released.”The school district had also looked at possible funding through the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. However, the income limits tied to CHFA funding are somewhat lower than Re-1 teachers could qualify for, Pelland said.”Our understanding is that CHFA is awarding grants on programs meeting the 30- to 60-percent of AMI [area median income],” she said. “That really doesn’t work for us.”We are continuing to talk to some other potential funding partners locally,” Pelland firstname.lastname@example.org
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