County reducing El Jebel developer’s affordable housing requirement | AspenTimes.com

County reducing El Jebel developer’s affordable housing requirement

An anonymous party circulated this flyer last week urging midvalley residents to oppose the Tree Farm development proposal in El Jebel. The opponents claim it is too big and will cause traffic gridlock. Proponents say it will provide affordable apartments.
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TREE FARM REVIEW

What: Review of Tree Farm proposal

When: Thursday, 4 p.m.

Where: Eagle County building, El Jebel

Eagle County government is proposing to give a midvalley developer credits that will reduce his affordable-housing requirement from 100 units to 45.

Under the strict interpretation of the land-use code, developer Ace Lane and his firm, Woody Ventures LLC, would be required to provide 100 units of affordable housing at his proposed project in El Jebel called the Tree Farm. Lane is proposing 400 total residences. The county requires 25 percent, or 100 units, to be affordable.

However, the county code awards developers for providing certain types of housing and gives carrots for sweetening a project with other public amenities. Lane has taken advantage of all those offerings to reduce the amount of affordable housing he must build.

He has agreed to build rental units and charge rent that is equal to 80 percent of the area median income. At current income levels, the one-bedroom apartments would rent for $1,294 per month. The two-bedroom apartments would rent for $1,552 per month.

In return for providing apartments at those rental rates, Lane is asking for double credit for those units.

Jill Klosterman, director of Eagle County’s Housing Department, recommended approval of Lane’s request. She noted it was in line with revisions Eagle County made to its affordable housing guidelines in 2014.

“One of the primary adjustments is to give additional credit to developers willing to build and manage affordable rental projects,” Klosterman wrote to the county planning office. “We acknowledge that rental projects are costly to build and maintain, and therefore will award additional credit to developers for providing this type of housing.”

Klosterman said there is a “dearth” of affordable rental housing in the Roaring Fork Valley and demand will exist for the long term. Using that credit reduces Lane’s affordable-housing requirement from 100 to 50 units.

Lane’s team is asking the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission and Eagle County commissioners to further reduce the Tree Farm’s housing requirement because he is offering other public amenities.

Lane is proposing to provide a 12-foot-wide public trail on his property, across Highway 82 from Whole Foods Market. The trail will hook into existing trails. He also is providing 20.3 acres of “usable” public parks and open space in the project, according to his application.

He has also pledged $910,000 as his share of a pedestrian underpass already constructed under Highway 82 at Willits. The Tree Farm will feature a 200-kilowatt solar farm to offset some of its energy consumption.

Another benefit is Lane’s pledge to build the affordable-housing units early in his project, so they will be in the rental pool early.

The county staff is advising that Lane should receive a further credit of 5 units if he builds the affordable housing in the first phase of the project. That would reduce his commitment to 45 units. Lane is offering to build one additional affordable housing unit as mitigation for a different land use proposal.

As proposed, the Tree Farm would feature 130 apartments that will rent at market rates; 124 loft condominiums; 64 townhouses; 36 live-work units; and the 46 affordable rental apartments. Sales prices or rental caps would only be in force on the 46 units.

The town of Basalt has objected to Eagle County that the Tree Farm proposal includes too little affordable housing. Members of Lane’s team have countered that the project will provide much-needed rental housing.

Dave Marrs, general manager of Woody Ventures, responded to Basalt’s criticism by noting that one of the greatest attributes of the Tree Farm is providing attainable and affordable housing. He also noted that a consultant for the town of Basalt advised earlier this year that it adopt the same housing regulations as Eagle County adopted.

That consultant, Economic and Planning Systems, is the same consultant that worked on the Tree Farm economic feasibility report in 2014.

Lane’s land-use planner, Jon Fredericks, said at a June 4 planning commission meeting that the Tree Farm is providing the type of housing highest in demand. “People love to live here. Why wouldn’t they,” he said at the meeting. “So let’s give them an affordable place to live.”

The Tree Farm received the first of three required approvals from Eagle County prior to the recession. Lane put the plan in mothballs during the economic downturn but now is seeking the second round of approvals.

The project has met widespread public opposition for being too large. An anonymous person or group circulated a flyer last week urging people to oppose the plan for the sake of the midvalley.

Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct an error in the amount of affordable housing proposed for the Tree Farm project.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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