Pitkin County agrees to help Woody Creek homeowners
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend roughly $50,000 helping homeowners in the Woody Creek Mobile Home Park form a taxing district that will levy funds to pay off debt they’ve incurred installing various infrastructure projects.
Initially, commissioners suggested they wanted some assurance that property owners in the park would ultimately approve formation of the district, so the county’s money would not be wasted on the effort, but in the end, commissioners agreed to put up the money without any such guarantee.
“Before I’m comfortable in saying we’ll go ahead with this and write a check for public monies, I want to feel confident you guys are committed to getting this done,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
Homeowners in the park don’t have enough information to weigh in on formation of a district until a $27,000 consulting study is done. The county agreed to pay for the study, plus legal fees that would bring the sum to about $50,000. At that point, homeowners should be able to decide whether they’ll support formation of a metro district in a vote expected to occur in the November election.
Clifton Prince, vice president of the park homeowners’ association, said he’s confident property owners will back the district once they understand what it will mean to their property tax bill.
“I think it’s a matter of educating people,” he said.
The mobile home park was converted from a privately-owned rental park to deed-restricted employee housing where owners purchased their lots a few years ago. The homeowners’ association took on a number of infrastructure projects to bring the newly-created subdivision up to county code, including road and utility improvements.
The homeowners owe about $460,000 for the improvements, and another $150,000 in construction has yet to be completed. Some residents are struggling to make a $160 monthly payment for the improvements, on a five-year repayment schedule, plus $180 per month in ongoing homeowners dues.
The metro district would spread out payment of the infrastructure costs over 15 or 20 years and transfer the cost to owners’ property tax bills, making the costs eligible as an income tax deduction.
There are 58 lots in the park and roughly 64 property owners who would be eligible to vote on formation of the district, according to attorney Rhonda Bazil, who’s working with the homeowners. Roughly 21 property owners would need to sign a petition to put formation of a district on the ballot, but Commissioner George Newman said he’d like to see a lot more signatures on the petition than that when the time comes. He wants to see strong support for the district.
Commissioner Patti Clapper offered to meet with homeowners to explain the advantages of forming the district. Clapper is a homeowner in a similar subdivision in Aspen – a former trailer park where, she said, homeowners should have formed a metro district. Instead, they face hefty monthly fees, she said.
“I think you can sell it because I think it’s the right solution,” Clapper said.
If the Woody Creek homeowners ultimately refuse to support a district, they shouldn’t look again to the county for help, Commissioner Rachel Richards warned.
“You have to understand, if the election fails, there is no coming back,” she said.
The county’s funding cannot come from the roughly $9 million in its housing fund, as that money is restricted to use on actual development of worker housing. The money will have to come from the county’s general fund.
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