‘Yes’ to Berry Creek housing
The 282-unit project was approved in conjunction with an ambitious slate of projects worth $6.5 million – project aimed at improving traffic in Edwards – all scheduled to begin this summer.
“Those improvements will be in place before a single trip is generated by this project,” said Eagle County Engineer Helen Migchelbrink.
Tuesday’s approval ends a two-year planning and approval process for the housing project’s public/private partnership – Eagle County, Vail and ASW Realty Partners of New Mexico.
ASW’s Andrew Gerber said construction is scheduled to begin in July, with the first home to be occupied by this winter.
Deed restrictions cap price increases on the homes at 3 percent annually. Buyers must be employed in Eagle County, and the homes must be owner occupied. Buyers must qualify through a selection process. That process is updated annually to make sure they continue to qualify.
Gerber said Vail already has 24 people pre-approved, with more than 300 on a waiting list to be pre-approved.
“When we walk around the community to tell people about it, they seem grateful that someone is trying to do something about affordable housing,” said Gerber.
Commissioners Michael Gallagher and Tom Stone both voted to give the project the go-ahead. Commissioner Arn Menconi was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but has expressed support for the project. Stone and Gallagher praised Gerber and ASW’s Vince Hooper for addressing concerns expressed by the Eagle County planning commission.
All the planning commission members said they were in favor of the project, but during presentations the developers couldn’t provide the kind of detailed information planning commission members were looking for. That left them no choice, they said, but to recommend against approval. The developers later contacted all the planning commission members to work through each of those concerns, which the county planning staff said had all been handled.
“I’m glad you were able to address all the planning commission members’ concerns,” said Stone.
Everything on the Berry Creek 5th has to come through the county’s review and approval process, including the schools, Colorado Mountain College, and all the recreation facilities. Under Colorado law, governments are only required to notify the public that they’re going to build something. County officials, though, said that since this was such a high-profile project, it needed more public input.
“We felt it should receive a higher level of public scrutiny,” said Stone.
Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad said the design on the Berry Creek 5th recreation fields is ready to go to the planning commission. If everything goes smoothly, construction on some of the playing fields and parks could begin in July.
Filling a need
During the project’s original hearing in February, Eagle County Housing Director David Carter said Eagle County’s rate of home ownership is the lowest in the state, owing to sagging wages coupled with housing costs that run up to three times the national average.
And that gap is only getting wider.
Carter said that in the 1990s, Eagle County housing prices went up 175 percent faster than wages.
“If you look at matching jobs to housing, it takes 4.5 average wage jobs to buy a home in this county,” said Carter. “One of the ways people deal with it is commuting. That’s up 600 percent over the last decade.”
Hooper said the company has done similar projects in California, New Mexico and Colorado. He said buyers tend to be professional people who are struggling in places like Eagle County.
During the project’s original hearing in February, Eagle County resident Adam Palmer said Eagle County and places like it suffer from a case of “affluenza”
“There are 9 million extra vacation houses and 7 million homeless people,” explained Palmer. “We don’t have a housing shortage in this country; we have a distribution problem.”
Edwards Traffic Improvements
Migchelbrink, meanwhile, said construction on Edwards road improvements will begin May 29 and be in place before the the Berry Creek 5th ever begins generating any traffic.
The $6.5 million in traffic upgrades include additional turn lanes and traffic lights on the Edwards Spur Road, eliminating one of entrances to Texaco and creating an entrance on Miller Ranch Road to clear up that traffic snarl, completing Miller Ranch Road by this summer and installing a new bridge to create another access for residents in that area.
Assistant Eagle County Administrator George Roussos has said a federal grant is in place to begin replacing Cemetery Road bridge.
Roussos said the $6.5 million in road improvements will take the county through at least 2008 when state funding is slated for another round of road improvements. Road improvements in the Edwards area are currently No. 2 on a five-county regional list with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Roussos said.
The 31.5-acre local resident housing project includes:
– 100 condominiums – $122,000-$152,000.
– 49 Townhomes – $216,000-$231,000.
– 64 Duplexes – $193,000-$218,000.
– 69 Single Family Homes – $250,000.
– Deed restrictions cap price increases on the homes at 3 percent annually.
– Buyers must be employed in Eagle County, and the homes must be owner-occupied.
– Buyers must qualify through a selection process. That process is updated annually to make sure they continue to qualify.