Eagle County: Builders blast housing rules | VailDaily.com

Eagle County: Builders blast housing rules

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Some of the area’s most influential developers were represented Tuesday to protest affordable housing rules proposed by Eagle County.

However, the county commissioners and some town officials were pleased with what they called much-needed action.

Builders including Vail Resorts Development Company said the guidelines require too much affordable housing and will stunt development in the valley. Developer Bob Warner said he would prefer if the county judged each project on a case-by-case basis instead of having overarching rules.

“You just need to say ‘no’ sometimes. I think if you see a good development project, you’ll see it, and if there’s one that’s not so good, you’ll see that, too,” he said.

The guidelines will have harmful effects, Warner said, pointing out that the West End ” a mixed-use development with 72 affordable homes in Edwards ” has caused Edwards land prices to skyrocket.

Development planner Dominic Mauriello insisted guidelines actually call for far more workforce housing than the projects would actually create.

He thinks the county is trying to force developers to pay for the area’s housing needs, he said.

“The county is essentially asking current developers for make up for existing deficits which is unfair and unlawful,” he said. “What I have a problem with is the concept of forcing landowners and developers to mitigate for someone else’s impacts.”

The 34-page document outlining workforce housing criteria is in the final stages of drafting, County Housing Director Alex Potente said.

The guidelines make sure developers provide for the housing needs their projects create, while giving them flexibility in how they do so, Potente said.

Developers who comply with the guidelines are rewarded by “density bonuses,” which allow more units to be built on a given piece of land. “It gets affordable housing built with the development, not just ‘sometime’ in the future like we’ve seen happen in both the towns and the county,” Potente said.

Potente admitted the guidelines are “rigorous” by design.

“The county should take the lead in demanding more of developers than the towns, which rely on sales tax (from developments),” he said.

But some developers said they are not impressed with the “incentives” that are offered.

The promise of density is too vague and can change based on what is worked out between the housing director and the developer, Mauriello said.

Singletree resident, attorney and builder George Gregory said the guidelines are too complicated, allow too much discretion from the commissioners and will create more bureaucracy.

“I’ve talked to land planners here who have told investors to go to other counties because it’s not going to happen here,” he said.

But Gerry Flynn of Polarstar Development, the company that built the Buffalo Ridge affordable apartments in Avon, said he thought the guidelines were on the right track.

But he did think the average required price of the affordable homes should be raised to allow developers to break even on the workforce homes, instead of relying on their market-rate homes to cover the costs.

The county should also waive or partially waive building permit fees for approved projects so it is easier and cheaper for developers of affordable housing to build, he said.

Others, including Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe, Minturn Mayor Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty, and Eagle Mayor John Stavney, said they supported the guidelines.

“Give this thing teeth,” said Minturn’s interim town manager, Gary Suiter. “This will ensure that we can continue building a community.”

Under affordable housing guidelines, proposed by Eagle County, developers would have several choices.

For residential projects more than five homes, developers would have the following choices:

– 35 percent of the total square footage of the project must be workforce housing

– 30 percent of the project must be workforce housing, and another 10 percent owned by local residents. However, these locally owned homes can be sold at market rate.

– 30 percent of the project must be affordable housing, and all the market-rate homes would be sold with an added 1.5 percent “transfer fee.” That fee would go toward the county’s affordable housing funds.

– 25 percent of the project must be affordable housing, 10 percent must be locally-owned but sold at market rate, and the transfer fee would apply to all market rate sales.

For commercial projects, developers would have to build enough workforce housing to provide for all of the jobs generated earning under 140 percent of the average median income.

That comes out to about 715 square feet of affordable housing for every 1,000 square feet of commercial space.

Mixed-use projects would have to choose between the residential and commercial requirements, whichever option produced more housing. Also, hotels would have to build 204 square feet of affordable housing per hotel room.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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