Commissioners consider housing impact fees |

Commissioners consider housing impact fees

Janet Urquhart

The cost of a mansion in Pitkin County could be going up.It won’t be the rising cost of real estate, but a new impact fee under consideration by county commissioners that bumps up the price tag. And the bigger the home, the bigger the fee.The idea has been kicked around for years, but it gathered steam when commissioners agreed earlier this year to hire consultants to analyze the county’s housing needs and produce a formula to calculate an impact fee.”We’d already had indications that second homes created the need for affordable housing,” said Commissioner Mick Ireland. “We had old studies, but we wanted a clearer look at the impacts.”Consultants will present their draft report to commissioners and the county Planning and Zoning Commission today at 5 p.m. at Aspen City Hall. The Affordable Housing Support Study was prepared by Clarion Associates of Denver with James C. Nicholas of RRC Associates.It documents the county’s existing housing for its work force, including deed-restricted affordable housing and free-market digs that still house working locals. In 1985, 73 percent of all employees in the county resided in the county, according to the report. By 2000, that percentage had dropped to 46 percent. The report predicts the number of workers residing in the county will drop to 38 percent by 2020 unless additional housing is provided in price ranges that employees can afford.The consultants have also analyzed the number of jobs created by residential development – both in the construction of homes and the care they require when they’re done. Job generation by various commercial developments are also calculated in the report.Impact fees are proposed for homes and various commercial developments, based on square footage, and for hotels – luxury and historic – based on the number of guest rooms.In unincorporated Pitkin County, however, most new development is likely to be residential, Ireland conceded. The county has no authority to levy the fee within the municipalities inside its borders, such as Aspen and Snowmass Village.The proposed impact fees for homes range from $3,370 for a 500-square-foot residence to $295,594 for a 25,000-square-foot manse. A 5,000-square-foot home would be levied a fee of $20,693 under the proposal.It’s possible the county could set the minimum threshold for collecting the fee from new home construction at 5,000 square feet, Ireland added.”If you’re buying a home, and it costs you $2 million, I think you can afford the fee,” he said. “It’s a lot smaller than the real estate commission on that transaction.”With the revenues from the impact fee, the county could pursue opportunities to provide additional deed-restricted worker housing, whether it’s in the Aspen area, the Basalt portion of the county or elsewhere.The Park Avenue Apartments on Aspen’s east end are an example of housing the county could preserve if it had the funds, Ireland theorized. The funky complex that houses local workers is on the market for $6.9 million and the property is ripe for redevelopment. It’s the kind of unprotected worker housing that continues to disappear, leaving fewer and fewer places where employees can afford to reside in the county.”Opportunities like that just aren’t open to us,” Ireland said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is