Summit County maps out potential affordable housing sites
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. ” Local planners have taken a baby step toward tackling the county’s affordable-housing crunch by mapping more than 30 potential development parcels, but much more needs to be done.
“I don’t think we’ve identified enough land,” Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said Tuesday, after staff members reviewed more than a dozen sites in the Ten Mile and Lower Blue planning areas at a work session.
“The more areas we look at without scaring people, the better,” said Commissioner Bob French.
During the past three months, county planners reviewed parcels with potential as affordable-housing sites based on criteria like access to infrastructure and utilities. They looked at private tracts as well as national-forest parcels and county-owned land and then offered up their list to the basin planning commissions for discussion.
Planning director Jim Curnutte emphasized that this preliminary effort doesn’t change zoning in any way.
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It’s a precursor to changing master plans ” especially the maps ” to reflect a community emphasis on the importance of finding suitable sites for affordable housing. Any subsequent development proposals would require zoning changes and site-specific reviews.
Davidson said part of the plan is to put affordable housing on par with open space. The commissioners want basin master plans to reflect that balance, he explained. Although county planners came up with an impressive list of parcels, the commissioners would like to see even more areas considered.
“You couldn’t find anything else in the Lower Blue?” Davidson said, asking the planners to take another hard look at the rural areas north of Silverthorne.
Davidson said he understands the community’s desire to protect the rural setting of the valley, but he doesn’t want to leave the area completely out of the affordable-housing equation.
“I know we’re not going to find the ideal solution. We’re going to have to make some tough compromises if we’re going to be serious about this,” Davidson said.
Royce Toller, of Preservation Development, Ltd., urged the commissioners to give planners a mandate to widen their scope and look at the entire county.
“The rural areas have been left out. Half the county does not have anything to really address the (affordable-housing) issue,” Toller said.
The maps displayed at Tuesday’s work session limited affordable-housing sites to areas adjacent to, or within existing towns, he pointed out.
“We think the designation is really important. The overlay on the map will help get projects done,” said Toller, whose company is looking at starting several affordable-housing developments in Summit County.
The planners will return to the county commissioners with a review of parcels in the Upper Blue and Ten Mile basins ” and with direction from the commissioners to leave as many parcels as possible on the table.
Along with looking at specific sites in the Lower Blue and around Frisco, the commissioners discussed whether there was enough public notice for the meetings.
Local real estate agent Henry Barr expressed some concern about the process.
“We’re talking about putting labels on peoples’ land that has a tremendous effect,” Barr said.
He asked the commissioners to take every possible step to let people know that they are considering affordable-housing designations for plots of land in various neighborhoods.
“Given the sensitivity of what we’re dealing with here … we’re playing developer,” Davidson said, urging planners to spend an extra $4,000 to spur awareness of the planning effort in a “sphere of influence” around the targeted parcels. “It’s going to be money well spent.”
Summit County Housing Authority director Jennifer Kermode defended the noticing process and said property owners have some responsibility to make themselves aware of what is going on in their neighborhoods.
“They shouldn’t come in at the last minute and say: ‘Nobody told me,'” Kermode said.
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