Eagle County School District inches forward on two workforce housing opportunities

As it moves forward on Third Street and Maloit Park plans, there's the potential to add up to 132 new units

The Eagle County School District is moving ahead with plans toward potentially developing up to 120 housing units at Maloit Park in Minturn.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

In 2020, the Eagle County School District set forth a goal to create 120 housing opportunities for district employees by 2030. Recent developments, partnerships and master leases have brought the district’s total to just around 70 opportunities.

However, the district has more opportunities on the horizon as its housing needs continue to pose threats to its ability to recruit and retain employees.

At its Wednesday, Nov. 16 Board of Education meeting, board members heard updates on both the 3rd Street development in Eagle and the possible future development of Maloit Park in Minturn. Between these two projects, the district could provide up to 132 units of new employee housing.

3rd Street development

The Third Street development in Eagle will bring 16 total units, 12 of which are set aside specifically for employees of the Eagle County School District.
Courtesy Photo

The 3rd Street development is part of a partnership between the district and Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. Just last week, the town of Eagle unanimously approved a major development permit, preliminary plan, final plat and the associated development agreement for the development.

On Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved the ability for Michelle Stetcher, the board president, to also sign these documents.

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The 2.2-acre plot — located southwest of Eagle Valley middle and elementary schools — will be home to eight duplex units. Each of the 16 housing units is contemplated to be around 1,200 square feet, with three bedrooms and a garage as well.

Emily Peyton, director of special projects for Habitat, said that the plan allows officials to maximize the density of the parcel.

Twelve of the 16 units on the site will be sold to employees of the Eagle County School District that are earning between 80% to 100% of the average median income in the area. The four remaining units will be sold to Habitat’s general application pool, which typically serves families earning between 30% and 85% of the average median income in the area, Peyton said.

The four remaining units could still go to district employees if they meet those income requirements.

On Wednesday, Peyton said that the organization’s departure from its historic qualification range will serve as a pilot for Habitat, but also help the district reach a different demographic with housing opportunities.

“We really recognize and admire the district really trying to be a part of the affordable housing solution and that the district is really trying to reach that year three to five teacher that doesn’t work so well within our historic income range,” Peyton said. “So, we will be piloting that 80 to100 AMI on this project and so 12 of 16 will be sold to district families in that income range.”

Per the development agreement, these homes will remain dedicated to school district employees. Peyton said on Wednesday that while Habitat typically doesn’t see a lot of turnover in its homes, in the instance that there is, there are contingencies for two scenarios.

The first is that should a homeowner decide to sell, Habitat would buy back the home and sell it to another district employee. The second is, should a homeowner leave a job with the district, Habitat would provide another housing opportunity for a district employee.  

Already, Habitat has selected eight of the 16 families that will call 3rd Street home, Peyton said. The remaining homeowners will be selected via a lottery process including all the qualified applicants from the district.

The other unique component of this project is that it will be Habitat’s first time using a modular building model (rather than its typical stick-built construction model), which Peyton said would “significantly shrink our construction timeline, so we’ll be able to get families in homes faster.”

The modular model means that the homes will be built in a factory and be “pretty much-completed units when they’re delivered” and craned onto the site, Peyton added.

With the development approvals from the town of Eagle, the project’s next step is to start land conveying and infrastructure work in the spring, as it targets to have the families in their homes at the beginning of 2024.

Maloit Park

The “latest vision” of Maloit Park includes 120 housing units, including possible apartment buildings, condos, townhomes and more.
Courtesy Photo

On Wednesday, the school board also unanimously approved a $258,000 budget to kickstart the entitlement process at Maloit Park. This budget will allow the district to engage a number of contractors — from civil engineers to land planners, wildlife, traffic, surveying and other experts — to formalize development approvals.

Tom Braun, a local planner and developer acting as a consultant for the school district, said on Wednesday that this process would give the district a better idea of “what we’ve got and what our opportunities are” as well as what the town’s expectations are moving forward.

While the district has an existing agreement in place with the town of Minturn, Braun said that this first phase will “vest the development right” for the district and make it “real and tangible.”

“There’s a lot of things we have to figure out like: How are we going to fund this? And are there partners or are there not?” Braun said. “But the first step is to get our entitlements in place so we know what this project is all about.”

This step also represents the district’s renewed interest in bringing housing to this site, which it previously looked at in 2019.

The nearly 85-acre site was annexed into the town of Minturn in 2011, with approximately 46 acres zoned for residential and mixed-use. Just over 18 acres were dedicated to the town for the development of a water treatment site, and nearly 40 acres were designated as open space for preserving wildlife, wetlands and more.

With the annexation agreement, it was also established the opportunity for 120 additional housing units, bringing the total to 138 units on site including the 18 mobile homes currently on the site.

On Wednesday, Braun showed the “latest vision” for the project, which included 120 units of various types of housing, from single-family homes to duplexes and apartments.

The board also discussed the extent to which there is a demand for this many units, with several board members expressing concern over the sheer size of the project.

Previously, as part of its 2020 housing plan, the district did surveys of its employees to understand the demand and interest for housing among its staff. Braun said that these results showed employee preference for housing in Eagle first, Edwards second and Minturn around No. 4 or No. 5. However, Braun added that 43% of current homeowners and around 50% of renters reported that they would consider moving to the site.

All this, Braun said, points to “interest for Maloit Park.”

Superintendent Philip Qualman added that additional information on demand will come as it gets its apartment development in Edwards up and running, as well as the 3rd Street development.

“We have a sense, from the committee work and just anecdotal that there’s going to be extremely high demand for those,” Qualman said, adding that the district will have more information ”relatively soon, within the next few months, before we get anywhere close to the COP phase, where we’re actually looking to finance the vertical construction on these properties.”

The board also expressed a desire to keep the community involved in the process, especially given the size of the project.

“The whole valley, in general, holds Maloit Park in a very special place in their heart,” said Lelia Conlin, school board member. “120 sounds overwhelming … on one hand, for the district, this is amazing for us, but that’s a big change for Minturn, so I think just really listening to what the community has to say is a priority.”

One current resident of Maloit Park, Kari Bangston, who is also a science teacher at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, spoke to the importance of this property as well as the opportunity it holds at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Maloit Park has given us the opportunity and the financial freedom for me even to work part-time when my little guys were babies,” she said. “As much as seeing the magic of Maloit change is challenging, I do think those changes can be made in a way that still keeps it such a special place.”

Bangston said she first purchased her “sweet little double wide” at the park “sight unseen” 15.5 years ago when she was fresh out of college.

“It’s a pretty magical place and it has absolutely changed my trajectory as a teacher,” she said. “Because of that home, I’m still here.”

Bangston acknowledged the massive problem of affordable housing in the county and expressed support for the project, but asked that the district “keep a couple things in mind” as the process begins again. First, she also expressed concern over finding 120 families that would want to live in Maloit Park. Second, she asked the district to consider phasing the project so as to limit the impact on the current homeowners.

“Please don’t just scrape the whole thing, try to phase it and do it one section at a time,” she said. “There’s a lot of feasible ways to make it happen with phasing the development so we can continue to have the people live there that are there and then provide new housing opportunities as well. “

Braun did address the potential of phasing for this purpose, stating that this is something that will continue to be evaluated as the project moves forward. 

With the budget approved for entitlement, there are still a lot of decisions ahead for the district with regard to Maloit Park. This includes discussing finance options, potentially engaging in partnerships with other local employers on housing as well as understanding the project’s requirements and opportunities. 

By beginning the entitlement process, the district will be able to get to the “starting line,” Qualman said on Wednesday.

“This is a nominal commitment in terms of the finance, the dollars to get this project off the ground,” he said.

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