A bill to pave the way for a workforce housing project in Summit County ended its yearlong congressional journey shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, July 25, when President Barack Obama signed into law the Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act.
The legislation, first carried by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and later by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., in the Senate, conveys 40 acres of land from the U.S. Forest Service to Summit County. The parcel is located between Interstate 70 and the Dillon Dam Road near the towns of Frisco and Dillon. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was a cosponsor of the bill.
Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who has championed the legislation throughout the lengthy process, said he was tipped off Friday morning that the bill might find its way to Obama’s desk. When he later learned the legislation indeed received the president’s signature, Gibbs said he felt a sense of relief and excitement.
“It’s so unique to have a bill that directly impacts one community in a positive way, and rarely do they ever get passed,” Gibbs said. “I can’t thank Sen. Udall and Congressman Polis enough for listening to our concerns in Summit County and turning our concerns into action.”
During the last several weeks, as the bill marched its way through the Senate approval process, Gibbs has said the Lake Hill measure would represent an important first step in the county addressing its affordable housing shortage. It’s not uncommon for Summit County workers, especially those in public safety, to commute from the Front Range.
“I’ve always looked for policies that allow people to live where they work,” Gibbs said. “This is going to help teachers, police officers, firefighters and so many others live in the community where they are already making such a positive investment.”
Although moving a bill through Congress is a monumental achievement, the work is far from done, Gibbs said, adding that the next steps begin immediately. His first call, he said, was to Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, to make sure he too heard the news.
No. 1 on the agenda is organizing an appraisal of the Lake Hill site. The county will then buy the parcel before bringing in planners to help sketch the design and size of the housing complex and to determine whether the units should be rentals or for-sale housing.
In the meantime, Gibbs said he’s going to try to buy the pen Obama used to sign the legislation, as well as a copy of the bill, to frame and hang in the courthouse.
“I don’t know if that is even possible, but how cool would that be?” Gibbs said. “Man, oh man. What a great day for Summit County.”
In addition to legalizing a future land deal between Summit County and the Forest Service, the Lake Hill measure also provides funding for the Dillon Ranger District to construct a new facility.
Polis introduced the legislation in June 2013. It passed out of the House of Representatives on Oct. 29, 2013, by a unanimous voice vote. Companion legislation sponsored by Sens. Udall and Bennet cleared the Senate on July 9, also by a unanimous voice vote, before heading to the White House.