Avon approves development for community housing project in Wildridge
If completed as intended, the project will provide 52 units of deed-restricted housing
A new community housing development in Wildridge got its first big win Tuesday when the Avon Town Council approved its development agreement. The development could bring 52 units of deed-restricted housing to the parcel of land known as Tract Y at the bottom of Wildridge.
Local developers Sean Reynolds, Steve MacDonald and Phil Matsen — under the development group Legacy Mountain Development — first brought the idea of partnering with the town on the development of the parcel back in November 2021. Since then, the town and development group have gone back and forth, ironing out the details of the development agreement.
Per the agreement, the developer intends to “construct a community housing, which is intended to include approximately 52 residential units on the property.”
The agreement further contemplates that “community housing,” means that any residential unit on the property will be subject to one of two kinds of deed restrictions, both of which are not price capped.
The first type is a “buyer-occupied deed restriction,” which would be for qualified buyers of the Mi Casa Avon program to receive funds from the town. The second type is an “Eagle County employee housing deed restriction,” which would not require Avon to provide financial assistance, but would require the unit be sold and/or occupied by an Eagle County employee.
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The agreement defines an Eagle County employee as someone who:
- Works an average of at least 32 hours per week for at least eight months
- Earns 75% of their income by working in the county
- Is 60 years of age or older and is retired, but worked a minimum of five years for an average of at least 32 hours per week for 8 months
- Obtains their income from self-employment at an Eagle County business
- Works for an employer outside Eagle County, but can prove primary residence in the county
The town of Avon also, in approving the agreement, pledged $600,000 to support the completion of the first six housing units on the property. This $600,000 commitment would only be paid out at the time of sale to buyers that qualify under the town’s Mi Casa Avon deed-restriction program. The funds would be distributed to the maximum amount of $100,000 per unit.
The other stipulation on the funding is that these six units must have started construction by the end of 2024 and be completed by the end of 2025.
According to the report in the May 10 Town Council packet, the town has further contemplated support of $1.1 million, to be appropriated in the future. This, however, will be at the discretion of future councils.
The agreement also grants the developers tax and fee waivers, so long as it’s developed for community housing.
Moving forward toward the remaining 46 units, the developers intend to seek similar partnerships and commitments from other local entities and municipalities including the town of Vail, Eagle County and local employers.
“We have had significant interest in the project from both individuals and businesses. That being said, the lending and construction market are both very volatile right now and having firm commitments of support from the town of Avon is very important to this project being successful,” read a letter from Reynolds, MacDonald and Matsen to council.
This type of private-public partnership — and Avon’s commitment — makes the project unique from other local community housing developments in Eagle County.
“To my knowledge, no one has done a project like this before. And so, we hope it will be a good template for the future,” MacDonald said at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
“If you go to the town of Vail, everything that they’ve done, they either bought the ground, developed the ground and it’s been an employee rental project, even a for-sale product. They took all the risk and everything else. Our goal is to make it so you have no risk … the risk is ours to carry out what we think we can get done, but we would like to have the town’s support for this,” he continued.
With the approval, the development group intends to get construction moving as early as the summer.
“Our goal is to get started with infrastructure, and hopefully some homes, this summer and this fall,” MacDonald said. “Our intent is, by the end of this year, to have the infrastructure for 52 units. In the near term, we intend to spend our money — our money, with possibly bank support — to put in the entire infrastructure that would be needed for a residential project. We would build units as the market was ready to take them on.”
In the letter from Reynolds, MacDonald and Matsen to the Town Council, it dictates that the group is finalizing its architecture plans, intends to then begin the pricing process, complete soil sampling and break ground on grading and infrastructure work.
There was some concern from some council members on how to ensure the property gets developed for community housing, as the parcel is also zoned for commercial or industrial use. However, this investment into infrastructure, MacDonald said, shows the developers intent to complete the project wholly for community housing.
Town Manager Eric Heil also emphasized this point stating that in the current market, the “highest and best use is residential,” for Tract Y.
“We’re seeing those prices, there’s not a huge demand for commercial,” Heil said.
Overall, council expressed excitement for pursuing this new type of development agreement.
“I appreciate your ambition and the private and pubic partnership that we’ve talked about for years and that we’ve anxiously wanted in the town,” said Council member Lindsay Hardy.
Amy Phillips, council member and mayor pro tem, echoed this appreciation for what the development group brought to the table, adding that she’s looking forward to “not rolling my eyes when someone says, ‘I want to buy something.’”
And following the unanimous passage of the agreement by council, Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes offered one final piece of advice: “Go forth and conquer.”