Housing developer seeks $1M fee waiver from Basalt Town Council | AspenTimes.com

Housing developer seeks $1M fee waiver from Basalt Town Council

A development firm is asking Basalt to waive about $1 million in land-use fees for its 100 percent affordable-housing project.

The Town Council will review the surprise request from RealAmerica Development LLC at its regular meeting tonight. RealAmerica's proposal for a 56-unit apartment building received a favorable recommendation from the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission last month. The request for the waiver of fees came after that review.

RealAmerica wants to build the Roaring Fork Apartments east of Stubbies, where the foundation for a hotel was constructed. The hotel project stalled during the recession. All 56 apartment units would have rents that fall within Basalt's affordable-housing guidelines, so town officials have been excited about the project.

Now the council will have to decide whether it is excited enough to waive $982,306 in revenue from various fees that would normally be levied on a development project.

RealAmerica President Ronda Shrewsbury Weybright wrote in her request to the town that her firm is facing a $2.3 million "financial gap" in constructing the project.

"The development fees contribute significantly to this gap," Weybright wrote. "We are estimating these at $1,585,661 or $28,315 per apartment, which is extremely high compared to what we have done in the past."

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She said "it appears" the town could waive $982,306 in fees because the project is 100 percent affordable housing. The town code allows waiver of fees for community housing.

She asked the council to also consider waiving the other $267,971 in fees and help it with a waiver request for the $335,384 in fees that will be charged by the fire district, the school district and the sanitation district. The Town Council has no power to waive the fees charged by other taxing districts, but Weybright said the waivers are necessary for the project to advance.

"All of this helps in attaining the ultimate goal of the lower mortgage possible, so we can keep rents low to service the debt," Weybright wrote.

Even if the Town Council agrees to waive the $982,306 allowed under the Basalt code, the funding gap for the Roaring Fork Apartments project would be about $1.32 million, Weybright wrote. She is asking the town to apply any funds it has collected from developers for construction of employee housing to the project. The town sometimes collects payments in lieu of housing from developers with the idea of applying them to an affordable-housing project. However, there has been very little development approved since the recession hit in late 2008. Willits Town Center, which features Whole Foods Market, was approved prior to the recession. The Willits developer is obligated to take care of its affordable housing on site.

The Basalt planning staff is recommending approval of the project, with multiple conditions. It made no recommendation on the request to waive nearly $1 million in development fees.

The project is scheduled to be reviewed in a public meeting by the Town Council at 6:55 p.m. today at Town Hall.

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