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Housing regulations rejected

Veronica whitney

In a two to one vote, Commissioner Arn Menconi voted in favor of the regulations the Eagle County Planning Commission had recommended approving. But Commissioners Mike Gallagher and Tom Stone voted against the requirements that have been in the works for three years.

In a second vote, Menconi and Gallagher directed county staff to propose the regulations as guidelines rather than laws. And the commissioners unanimously passed another motion to create more incentives for the developers of affordable housing.

“The issue didn’t die,” Menconi said. “It wasn’t completely thrown out. We have at least created a starting point.”

Although more than a dozen local developers who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they were against the proposed requirements, Menconi said they brought a dose of reality to the debate over the regulations. Most developers cited a current “glut of affordable housing units” in the

county. They also questioned having more deed-restricted housing.

“The only way to get affordable housing built is to provide incentives,” said Lance Badger, a developer of Cordillera.

Menconi said he knew up front the regulations would have an impact on the developers.

“But we also need to think how we can help people to stay here,” he said.

At the meeting, Stone said he was against adopting the proposed regulations even as non-binding guidelines.

“I think we should keep what we already have as incentives to the current affordable housing,” he said.

The requirements would have ensured that new developments in unincorporated areas of Eagle County provide affordable housing to local residents through three programs called inclusionary housing, residential-housing linkage and employee-housing linkage.

The requirements would have told developers what percentage of affordable housing they must provide with their projects. During several hearings on the requirements, county commissioners made several changes to the proposals, including lowering the proposed percentage of affordable housing provided by developers from 20 and 30 percent to a final 10 percent.

A two-bedroom unit would have been available to a three-person household with a household income of $50,850 for $187,103. The market price for that unit is $223,125.

“The county is now dealing with a situation that existed years ago,” Gallagher said. “I’d like to see that we pursue something more flexible. I’d like to see that we do what we have done before: negotiate with the developers on each individual project.”

The county currently has just an advisory document for affordable-housing mitigation, said Rebecca Leonard, senior planner for Eagle County.

If the regulations had passed, Leonard said it would have made it possible to require this of all developments, making it more equitable since the county had been negotiating on a case-by-case basis.

“In the past 15 years we have had a consistent need for affordable housing,” Leonard said.

Stone said his opinion had changed over time about the affordable housing regulations.

“Not a single person has testified in favor of the regulations,” Stone said at the meeting. “I don’t want to polarize Eagle County. With these regulations we would have killed the free market.

“This would be the wrong way to help,” he said. “The way to help people is by creating jobs.”

But Menconi said over the last year housing costs have far out-paced wages.

“Wages have increased about 24 percent and housing more than 60 percent,” he said. “How are you going to create community, if people are moving farther and farther away?”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454,

or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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