Fee deferments instead of waivers considered for Meadows housing | AspenTimes.com

Fee deferments instead of waivers considered for Meadows housing

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

An affordable housing developer who was hoping Glenwood Springs City Council would waive hundreds of thousands of dollars in development fees may settle for a deferment instead.

And despite concern that the change could jeopardize Garfield County’s $1.5 million commitment to the 120-unit apartment project at Glenwood Meadows, county commissioner John Martin said it wouldn’t change the county’s position.

“That’s fine with us. I don’t think that really interferes with our contribution,” he said.

During an affordable housing consortium in Carbondale Wednesday afternoon, Geneva Powell, director of the Garfield County Housing Authority, said a deferment would be different from what developers had told the county they would ask of the city. The county’s commitment was conditional on the city meeting that request, Powell said, who believes the developer’s change in tactic is a mistake.

“It’s going to kill the project because the county is going to back out,” she said.

But Martin said in an interview that he understands the city’s finances remain tight, and that if needed the city, county and housing authority officials could meet to discuss the question of the city’s support.

“We need to stay positive on this issue. We need to solve this (affordable housing) problem,” he said.

Eighty-four of the Glenwood Meadows units would be restricted to lower-income families. The developers approached the city and county for financial assistance after rising construction costs drove up the project cost from $22 million to $28 million.

Rodger Hara of Capmark Financial, who is working with developers on funding the project, said at Wednesday’s conference that difficulties with subsurface soil conditions at Glenwood Meadows also have added to the costs by creating a need for retaining walls and unusually deep foundation pilings.

Arny Porath, president of Spruce Realty Group, which is developing the project, said he has spoken with a couple of City Council members but no decisions have been made about what will be asked of the city.

“We’re just exploring some opportunities to see how we can pull this project together,” he said.

City manager Jeff Hecksel said the city is still awaiting a proposal from developers. The issue is scheduled for council to consider Sept. 21.

“I’m concerned about how this plays out between the city, county and the developer here,” he said. “I think a lot will depend on what they ask the city for.”

However, Hecksel was happy to hear that Martin appears to be willing to be flexible on the issue.

Council had rejected nearly $500,000 in housing development fee waivers sought by developers last fall. They want council to reconsider, and perhaps grant an even larger waiver.

However, council remains closely divided philosophically on the idea of granting such waivers for affordable housing developments. Opponents cite the cost to the city and question subsidizing private developers. Council recently granted about $8,600 in waivers for a small project by a 4-3 vote, but even some of those who voted for it warned that it might not reflect how council might come down on Glenwood Meadows waivers.

“I’m not sure council really understands how important it is with respect to providing this type of housing,” Joan Baldwin, a city Planning and Zoning commissioner, said during Wednesday’s conference.