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Avon wants you to stay in Avon

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

AVON ” Jill Reed rents a home in Avon, but she doubts she’ll be buying one.

She hasn’t really kept up with the town’s ongoing efforts to create an affordable housing plan, but she knows one is needed.

“Whenever it is I decide to get married and buy a house, it would be nice to stay here, or anywhere in the valley,” Reed said.

Avon has been trying for months to create affordable housing guidelines, but several revisions and objections from developers who said the guidelines were too tough have kept the plans on the drawing board.

Community leaders are discussing new ways of making the town affordable for middle class families while being reasonable for developers. After taking suggestions from developers, the town is steering away from affordable housing requirements based on the size of projects.

Instead, the town will focus more on requiring developers to provide affordable housing based on how many employees a project will generate. Developers will be expected to examine what kind of impact they’ll have on the community based on a housing study done by RRC Associates.

The study estimates how many employees are generated by different kinds of developments, whether it’s a bar, office or a condo complex, and suggests how much employee housing the developer should be responsible for. It will give developers a baseline, some sure numbers they need to keep in mind when they’re building a project, said Matt Gennett, a senior planner for the town.

“This is less arbitrary” it’s tied directly to how many employees you generate as a result of a project,” Gennett said.

Still, there’s some flexibility. It will be up to the Town Council to decide how much housing should be provided by the developer on a case-by-case basis, dependent on other public benefits a developer might offer.

“You can’t be so imposing that you cut out their incentive to build something,” Gennett said. “We have to ask what are the economic benefits for the town, what impact they are making on the town and make sure it works so it benefits everyone.”

A set of affordable housing guidelines had actually gone before the Town Council in September, but several developers, residents and planning and zoning commissioners told the council that there were major problems with the guidelines, problems big enough to bring development in Avon to a screeching halt.

The guidelines would have required developers of residential areas to dedicate 20 percent of their projects to affordable housing. Basically, the larger the development, the more affordable housing units required.

The guidelines also would have encouraged developers to build affordable housing within their construction projects, or provide a larger percentage of affordable housing somewhere else in town. Developers also could have paid large fees in lieu of building any affordable housing.

Several people said requiring 20 percent affordable housing would put a financial burden on developers. Many people also said that penalizing developers for building affordable housing on a different location was a bad idea, especially if many middle class families don’t even want to live in a big condo project.

Instead, Avon should actually embrace the “pay-in-lieu” option and encourage developers to build affordable homes away from dense developments, they said.

The new housing policy is still being written, but some of the ideas in the town’s original plan will likely stick around. Like previous versions of the affordable housing guidelines, the town will need to impose some sort of restrictions on affordable housing, things like, appreciation caps and requirements to work in Eagle County.

What exactly will be used hasn’t been determined yet.

The town will still likely offer a pay-in-lieu option. Gennett said there will be places where it doesn’t make sense to provide affordable housing within a project, and other places where it makes a lot of sense.

A completed plan should be presented to the council in the near future.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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