Eagle County Schools presents plan for workforce housing in Eagle
School district seeking approval to partner with Habitat for Humanity on 16 units of employee housing
The Eagle Town Council held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed partnership between Eagle County Schools and Habitat for Humanity to build 16 new units of workforce housing in Eagle.
The project’s planner Tom Braun came before the Town Council on Tuesday evening on behalf of Eagle County Schools to seek approval on two items.
First, the school district is hoping to rezone 2.2 acres of its Eagle property to allow for a “medium-density residential” development. Second, Braun presented a sketch plan for the subdivision, which is planned for the west end of the school district’s campus on Third Street.
The collaboration between Habitat for Humanity and Eagle County Schools is crucial to the district’s ability to recruit and maintain educators and other staff, Chief Operating Officer Sandra Mutchler said in Tuesday’s meeting.
“We struggle a lot. We have an average right now of about 60 unfilled positions, and we’re getting jobs turned down on a regular basis just because of the cost of living and finding housing here,” Mutchler said.
Following a presentation and a hearty string of comments from the public, the town’s attorney Matt Mire addressed what Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed called “the elephant in the room.” Town staff recommended that the Town Council deny the rezoning request until the project’s developers subdivide the parcel so that the rezoning aligns with the town’s municipal code.
Contrary to this, Eagle’s Planning and Zoning Commission — an advisory board to the Town Council — recommended the approval of the “sketch plan” as well as the necessary rezoning. The Commission felt that the discrepancy with the town’s code was fine if developers provided a legal description to indicate the dimensions of the area subject to rezoning, which Braun did provide.
Ultimately, the Town Council unanimously approved the sketch plan for the subdivision but tabled approval of the rezoning request until their first January meeting. This will give Mire and town staff time to tweak the municipal code to “allow for a rezoning of a portion of a lot in certain circumstances,” according to Mire.
In the meantime, Eagle County Schools and Habitat for Humanity can move forward in the planning process for the development of 16 employee housing units in the form of eight duplexes. A total of 12 units will be set aside for school district employees, and the remaining four will go to local employees.
The 12 units would be sold to school district staff at or below 100% AMI or “area median income,” a metric used by the county in calculating rates for affordable housing developments in accordance with guidelines set out by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.
Eagle County’s area median income is an annual income of $70,000 for one person and $100,000 for a family of four, according to the guidelines.
The remaining four units would be offered up to local employees at or below 80% area median income, which is $56,000 for one person and $80,000 for a family of four.
These numbers represent income limits for who would be eligible to purchase the housing units, but they also inform how the units will be priced based on state guidelines around how much of a person’s income should go toward mortgage or rent payments.
Initially, all 16 units were going to be set aside for Eagle County Schools employees, but developers changed the proposal based on feedback from the Planning and Zoning Commission that some should be offered up to the broader community.
The proposed 2.2-acre section of the 15.7-acre parcel owned by the school district is very suitable for residential development, Braun said in Tuesday’s meeting.
The land is “walkable to Broadway” and “right next to bike paths,” Braun said. The area is located “right next to the firehouse right along Third Street” and is “very accessible to utilities and roads,” making the development process easier and less costly, he added.
The project is a part of Eagle County Schools’ “Employee Housing Master Plan” released in the spring of last year. The plan aims to create 120 units of workforce housing over the next decade, enough to house 13% of the district’s staff.
Many of the county’s teachers find themselves in a difficult situation where they make too much money to be eligible for Habitat for Humanity’s housing program, but don’t make enough money to “play ball in the free-market housing world that we live in,” Braun said in his presentation Tuesday.
For this reason, Habitat for Humanity has agreed to build the duplexes and allow them to be sold based on a slightly higher income limit than is used for the organization’s other housing, he said.
Brenda Saucedo, family advocate for Eagle County Schools, said it was a Habitat for Humanity project much like this one that gave her and her daughter a new shot at life.
“We were put in a situation where her and I were homeless and had nowhere to go,” Saucedo said. “I will say there were times where I was so drained, I couldn’t really process my thoughts, but one thing I did not leave in the dark was to follow up with my Habitat application.”
After applying for a home twice, Saucedo received the news that she had been accepted into the program while at work for Eagle County Schools, she said.
“It boosted my self-confidence and made me realize I am worthy of good things and I’m fighting for my daughter to have a better future than I did,” Saucedo said.
“I couldn’t feel more fortunate to work for a place that’s always advocating for their staff and the needs within the community,” she said. “The fact that Eagle County schools and Habitat are collaborating together will make a positive change for all of our staff and give them hope.”
Many others who filled the room Tuesday or joined remotely stepped up to speak in support of the project. One resident suggested that more than 16 units should be built on the space, calling the project “short-sighted,” but said that he still supports the plan.
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com