Developer estimates 2020 completion, says, “I want to be realistic”
By Katherine Nettles
The recently approved affordable housing project in Mt. Crested Butte’s Homestead development will take a bit longer than first anticipated, based on unforeseen delays in getting the project under contract. Lance Windel, the developer approved to build the housing units within the Prospect subdivision, addressed the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council on December 18 to give an update on his projected finish date.
“I don’t think I can make a start on this until summer,” said Windel. It was originally hoped he could have started the project by now and have the units completed as early as next Thanksgiving.
Windel cited the timing of logistics and not having been able to begin in the summer of 2018 as originally expected. “We are probably talking about the end of February or March before I can get in front of the HOA to get their approvals,” said Windel. “And then I have to go through the architectural and engineering process.”
Windel then outlined several other steps in designing and constructing 22 affordable townhome units, which, due to the Prospect development demands, were held up in the approval process for several months longer than expected.
He said that while he can pour concrete foundations and set lines for water, sewage and other utilities, he did not want to begin the process of framing if he couldn’t finish it until after another winter has passed.
“I do not want to have exposed wood frames next winter,” he said. “I think the best answer we can get is to … not start framing until March of 2020, which would still make Thanksgiving [completion]. It will still be an 18-month build on the 22 units.
It’s not where I want to be, but I want to be realistic,” concluded Windel.
Councilmember Dwayne Lehnertz pushed back a bit on the timeframe and Windel’s concerns about wood exposure, saying, “June seems to be a more realistic time to begin, anyway. What exposed wood would you still have as long as you have the envelope tight? You should still be able to move things along, to my way of thinking.”
Windel responded that he preferred to take a conservative approach for his first mountain climate project, in order to avoid damaged building materials or promising people homes that did not meet their deadline. He agreed that by winter of 2019, “I could probably be what we call ‘in the dry.’ I could have my roof on, but I don’t think that I could have all my siding and exterior finishes done.”
Windel acknowledged that manufacturers state it is okay to leave a “zip wall,” the green (OSB)—oriented strand board, an engineered wood similar to particle board—exposed for about six months, or to leave a Tyvek or house wrap exposed. “You could do it. But in your winters, I’m just not super-excited about it. That may be me being conservative, but I have not built in a climate like this, and … I just don’t want to mess it up,” Windel said.
He also said he was okay letting his builders slog through the mud to frame in March of 2020, but he doesn’t want to pour concrete the spring prior to that in the mud.
Windel has constructed several affordable housing developments in Oklahoma, where he is based. “I do 30 homes in four months in Oklahoma,” he said.
As Lehnertz persisted in challenging the need for delay, community development director Carlos Velado spoke up to say, “An 18-month timeframe for 22 units is still ambitious. We have single-family homes that take much longer than this would.”
“And even if I couldn’t be framing until June  I could still be done by December,” said Windel, speaking of the 2020 timeline.
“The timeframe that is being suggested has obviously had to change a bit because of delays that were not attributable to Lance,” said town attorney Kathleen Fogo.
“I appreciate you saying that,” responded Windel.
Fogo said Windel was still in compliance with the terms of his contract, and was simply updating an estimated timeframe.
Prior to the meeting, Windel spoke by phone with Crested Butte News about his concerns with the previous timeline. “I am very practiced in putting up affordable housing,” he said. “That’s what we specialize in. Not in Colorado, but in Oklahoma. I don’t work in big cities. I specialize in rural affordable housing…. I haven’t done it in the mountains before. “
Windel said his goals for the project are to meet the needs of those who are depending on him. “My goal is that I’m not there to bring my own architectural flair to the town. They are happy with what the neighborhood is, so we are going to match the neighborhood.”
The Prospect developer owns 13 of the lots to be used for the units, while the town of Mt. Crested Butte owns nine lots. Both have worked as stakeholders to attain affordable housing as part of the requirement for the Prospect subdivision, and the 22 townhomes will satisfy their obligation for the final 15 non–deed-restricted homes that Prospect can build in the future.
“I think that its going to be the housing that working folks in the North Valley need, at that price point they need,” said Windel. “The problem that I have today is that this process dragged out a little longer than I would have liked. So there are several months before I can start construction.”
Windel also said that while he wished the approval process had gone faster, he was not interested in pointing any fingers.
“I would love to start this in the spring—I just can’t imagine how that will happen,” he said.