Eagle won’t bend rules for housing | VailDaily.com
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Eagle won’t bend rules for housing

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colorado ” A valley business owner wants to build employee housing, but the town of Eagle’s building regulations won’t let him.

Gary Gilman, owner of the Minturn-based SteamMaster, wants to expand his business to Eagle and build employee housing above his business space, but according to the town’s building regulations, Gilman cannot do so.

The land, located at the end of Chambers Avenue, is designated as a business area.

“We currently do not allow for housing in the Chambers Avenue, highway-interchange area,” Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said.

The town wants to keep that area commercial to take advantage of business from I-70 drivers. Plus, that area is not made to be a residential area, he said.

“There are difficulties with introducing housing there,” Powell said. “There are no parks, no trails, no school bus stops. Anyone investing in that area should be aware of that.”

But with the lack of affordable and workforce housing, why should any town shut the door on a possible solution, Gilman asked.

Maybe, he said, there should be a way to bend the rules a bit.

It worked in Minturn

Gilman’s restoration and cleaning business has been based in Minturn since 1995. The business, which has about 35 employees, is outgrowing the current building, but it was not always that way, he said.

When the business first started, Gilman had a hard time hiring employees, partly because housing was hard to find.

“At first no one would even answer an ad,” he said. “It was impossible to find a place to live.”

He decided to solve the problem by building employee housing above his offices, storage and parking space. He worked with the town of Minturn for more than a year as they re-vamped their zoning laws. Now he can house about nine employees, he said.

He subsidizes the housing, charging $450 per room and $1,350 per three-bedroom unit. It has worked “fantastically” for the business, he said, allowing him to recruit workers from around the country and the world.

He wanted to expand the business into Eagle, where he hoped to build a similar building on Chambers Avenue, near the I-70 exit.

Mixed-use developments have worked well in Minturn, said Chris Cerimele, a Minturn town planner.

The Minturn Loft buildings on Main Street and the Creekside Mountain Properties building near the Minturn Market have similar layouts, with residences above the offices.

“The whole valley is so geographically constrained, so we don’t have too much room to spread out and build,” Cerimele said. “It’s important to allow for mixed uses in the same building.”

Are the rules in the way?

But Eagle town planners did not feel quite the same way when Gilman proposed his building.

Even if Eagle officials wanted him to build a mixed-use building there, their planning codes would not allow him to do so. “We have a uniform set of regulations, and that’s what we have to work with,” Powell said.

Gilman called it “backwards thinking.”

“They can’t make an exception,” he said. “That’s silly when you read everyday about the housing crisis.”

Gilman began researching other towns in Colorado, including those in Eagle County, Aspen, Boulder, Longmont and Grand Junction. He found that Eagle was the only town that did not have a means within their existing zoning regulations to allow for mixed-use developments like his, he said.

“Other towns and counties offer a variety of incentives and encourage the construction of mixed-use buildings to help alleviate the effects of the high cost of housing in their communities,” he said.

Minturn’s land-use regulations, since they were rewritten in 1995, have changed to become more flexible, Cerimele said. The use of a building ultimately comes down to a decision by the Town Council, he said.

However, Eagle is updating its community plan, and planners will consider allowing homes to be built in that area, Powell said.

Right now the Eagle downtown district and the Eagle Ranch Village Center allow for mixed-use buildings.

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

Gilman’s restoration and cleaning business has been based in Minturn since 1995. The business, which has about 35 employees, is outgrowing the current building, but it was not always that way, he said.

When the business first started, Gilman had a hard time hiring employees, partly because housing was hard to find.

“At first no one would even answer an ad,” he said. “It was impossible to find a place to live.”

He decided to solve the problem by building employee housing above his offices, storage and parking space. He worked with the town of Minturn for more than a year as they re-vamped their zoning laws. Now he can house about nine employees, he said.

He subsidizes the housing, charging $450 per room and $1,350 per three-bedroom unit. It has worked “fantastically” for the business, he said, allowing him to recruit workers from around the country and the world.

He wanted to expand the business into Eagle, where he hoped to build a similar building on Chambers Avenue, near the I-70 exit.

Mixed-use developments have worked well in Minturn, said Chris Cerimele, a Minturn town planner.

The Minturn Loft buildings on Main Street and the Creekside Mountain Properties building near the Minturn Market have similar layouts, with residences above the offices.

“The whole valley is so geographically constrained, so we don’t have too much room to spread out and build,” Cerimele said. “It’s important to allow for mixed uses in the same building.”

But Eagle town planners did not feel quite the same way when Gilman proposed his building.

Even if Eagle officials wanted him to build a mixed-use building there, their planning codes would not allow him to do so. “We have a uniform set of regulations, and that’s what we have to work with,” Powell said.

Gilman called it “backwards thinking.”

“They can’t make an exception,” he said. “That’s silly when you read everyday about the housing crisis.”

Gilman began researching other towns in Colorado, including those in Eagle County, Aspen, Boulder, Longmont and Grand Junction. He found that Eagle was the only town that did not have a means within their existing zoning regulations to allow for mixed-use developments like his, he said.

“Other towns and counties offer a variety of incentives and encourage the construction of mixed-use buildings to help alleviate the effects of the high cost of housing in their communities,” he said.

Minturn’s land-use regulations, since they were rewritten in 1995, have changed to become more flexible, Cerimele said. The use of a building ultimately comes down to a decision by the Town Council, he said.

However, Eagle is updating its community plan, and planners will consider allowing homes to be built in that area, Powell said.

Right now the Eagle downtown district and the Eagle Ranch Village Center allow for mixed-use buildings.

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


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