Avon considers site near Home Depot for employee housing development
Town Council looks into moving Swift Gulch housing design for cost savings
The Avon Town Council is preparing to build over 40 housing units for government employees in what will be its largest investment in affordable housing to date, but council members have yet to determine the best site on which to build.
The 2018 town properties plan identifies the Swift Gulch site — which consists of 4 acres of developable land just north of Interstate 70 — as an ideal location for the units, but the council is now considering transferring the Swift Gulch housing plans to Lot 5, another 5-acre property located east of the Home Depot.
The idea to move the location stems from various development challenges that drive up costs at the Swift Gulch location, namely the steep grade of the property, limited area for building footprints, and the need to develop safe pedestrian crossways. Lot 5 was previously planned as a public works site on which to build garages, storage space, offices and some housing, but its flat terrain and good pedestrian accessibility make it an appealing candidate for the larger employee housing build-out.
The design consists of three buildings, each with 12 one-bedroom apartments and three two-bedroom apartments for a total of 45 units. When questioned about the high number of one-bedroom units at the Feb. 14 town council meeting, town manager Eric Heil said that the single units are a better fit for the entry-level positions that the town is in need of, such as lifeguards, bus drivers and snow plow drivers.
The cost saving of constructing the buildings on Lot 5 versus Swift Gulch is estimated at $100,000 per unit, or $4.5 million overall. That said, if the council chooses to build housing on Lot 5 it will then have to develop the public works site at Swift Gulch, a process that may neutralize the cost savings since the property will still need to be evened out for development.
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The majority of Town Council members expressed a preference for the Swift Gulch development, arguing that the quality of life, beauty of the views from the site and proximity to the town core make it a more optimal location. They also noted that with an investment of this size, it is important to be intentional about the growth of the town over time and that developing housing at Lot 5 might create an island apart from community centers.
“I’d rather see housing closer to the town center than to see more buses being stored in a very incredible area,” said Council member Lindsay Hardy in favor of the Swift Gulch site. “I think the highest and best use for the Swift Gulch piece of land is housing.”
One option that was appealing to council members was to design housing units specifically for the Lot 5 site to optimize the space, potentially adding a floor and taking advantage of the flat land to maximize the land use. The design presented at the latest Town Council meeting was a transplant of an identical design from Swift Gulch. The council requested a new design from staff to get more housing out of Lot 5 and a direct price comparison to help guide its decision.
“I don’t feel strongly for either site but I want to accelerate this process and keep our foot on the gas to get there and I want to get the most bang for our buck,” said Council member Tamra Nottingham. “To move it down here just to save $100,000 per unit is not really my interest. I want a quality project and I want as much as we can get as fast as we can get it.”
The council chose not to select a location for the development this month and will consider both options later in the year once the Lot 5 design and price estimation are in hand.
“We have a need for housing today for town employees,” Heil said. “We’re feeling the urgency, but I think it’s worth coming back to planning commissions and trying to look at all these issues and sort through logically what might be the best option.”