Teacher housing in Carbondale moving forward
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” An affordable housing development that would provide up to 89 housing units for Roaring Fork School District employees is gathering momentum.
More than a year in the works, a land swap between the district and the town of Carbondale involving the old Carbondale Elementary School and a 2.7-acre plot of land near the new Roaring Fork High school is slated to be finalized the end of July or in early August, according to Shannon Pelland, assistant superintendent of business services for the school district. The district, headquartered in Glenwood Springs, includes schools in Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt.
The town of Carbondale expressed interest in the old elementary school property as a place to house area nonprofits, according to Pelland. The remaining land between that facility and the old Carbondale Middle School will be the site of the housing development.
The project is one of the top priorities for the district, said Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.
“We’ve got a turnover of about 70 employees every year,” Haptonstall said. “I would bet that about 80 percent of those can be attributed to the cost of living around here.”
Haptonstall said that being able to offer affordable housing to first-year teachers would be a great asset for recruiting and retention.
“To be able to say that we’ve got affordable housing will broaden the pool of teachers we have to choose from, and I think it will keep people here longer,” she said.
The district has already had about seven teachers who signed contracts in the spring pull out because they couldn’t find an affordable place to live. The planned housing would help by providing rental and for-sale units to district employees as a first priority, followed by town employees, district “partners” and then the general public. However, Pelland said she didn’t think the housing would ever reach the fourth tier, given the interest among district employees alone.
One of the major challenges for the project has been finalizing a contract between the developer and the district, partly because certain laws governing school districts makes the process “extremely difficult,” Pelland said. The district is close to signing a contract with Perry Rose LLC as the developer for the housing, she said.
“We still do not have a finalized contract with them yet,” Pelland said. “We’ve been working in ‘good faith’ to this point. There are so many statutes and regulations on financing and other laws specific to school districts that the whole system to set up a structure so we can do an affordable housing project is extremely complicated.”
An added wrinkle in the contract is that it will involve a third entity, like a housing authority, possibly comprised of school district employees and Town Council members, Pelland said. The details of that entity have yet to be determined.
The property has been rezoned for high- and medium-density residential development; the district and Perry Rose LLC are trying to develop a plan that will meet the needs of the district and the city of Carbondale, according to Pelland.
“One of the things we’ve been working on that we are just now getting the results back from is a staff housing survey,” Pelland said.
The survey will help the district determine what type of units would best suit the needs of its employees. The housing will probably range from studio apartments to three-bedroom apartments, she said.
Both Pelland and Haptonstall anticipated construction could begin as soon as summer 2009, but made no promises.
“It depends on how the financing comes together,” Pelland said. “The earliest would be next summer, but that may be optimistic.”
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