Affordable housing fees could increase in town of Crested Butte

At least it’s not $171 per square foot

Affordable housing fees charged in lieu of providing physical affordable housing could double in some instances in Crested Butte as part of the 2010 town budget. But even adopting the proposed increases would keep the town’s fees well below some other resort communities. 





Currently set at $2.08 per square foot for commercial space and $1.82 per square foot for residential construction, the town council agreed to implement a raise to $4.16 per square foot for commercial building projects and $2.07 per square foot for residential construction.
Under the current Crested Butte Land Use Plan, the town could charge up to $20.79 per square foot for commercial buildings and $2.43 per square foot for residential projects. According to the Crested Butte building department, similar affordable housing fees in Telluride are calculated at a whopping $171 per square foot.
The Crested Butte fees were initially established in 2003 and haven’t been adjusted since 2004, when they were actually decreased.
The council also budgeted up to $25,000 to have an expert develop a new strategic plan and documentation model for updating the affordable housing fees. They hope to have that report by the middle of next year. The $25,000 will come from $94,000 in affordable housing impact fees garnered from the Crested Butte Community School expansion project.
Town planner John Hess asked the Town Council during a budget work session on Monday, October 23, if they wanted to raise the fees now and then perhaps again in six months when the strategic plan and new model are completed. The council felt it was past time to raise the fees.
“The increase should have been done yesterday. We are so far out of skew we need to do something now and evaluate the new information we receive in 2010,” said councilperson Reed Betz. “I absolutely think we need to raise it now.”
Councilmember Skip Berkshire agreed. “A bump in the affordable housing fees is way overdue,” he said. “It’s important and it is way below what we could be charging. With the building economy down at the moment, it might be good to do it.”
Councilperson Dan Escalante didn’t want to jump into a fee increase without a thorough look. “Such a fee can hurt the locals who we’re trying to help,” he argued. “Let’s say a local wants to do a remodel and this fee prices him or her out of being able to do it. All of a sudden we’re hitting the locals who barely can afford to live here in the first place. That fee alone could scare the hell out of me and stop me from doing a remodel.”
Hess suggested that the increase put forward by the staff was not a large increase. Town building and zoning director Bob Gillie confirmed statistics brought up by Betz about other towns charging hundreds of dollars a square foot in building costs for affordable housing fees.
Gillie cited other resort communities where similar fees for affordable housing were several times larger than Crested Butte’s. “In Telluride, they charge $171 per square foot for commercial and multi-family projects” he said. “Aspen, Telluride, and Ketchum, Idaho all have fees 100 times ours or more. They’ve lost their communities and are trying to get them back. If big projects in Crested Butte that need workers don’t even have to pay fees that would bring in enough money to buy a single unit, it drives home the point that we need to look at it.”
Crested Butte building department administrative assistant Philip Supino compiled a few examples of such fees in other towns. According to his figures, Vail demands at least half the required employee housing be constructed on site. The other half can be paid in lieu of building at a rate of $329,206 per employee expected to work in a commercial project. Fees are similar in Sun Valley. In Ketchum, Idaho, the amount of the fee is based on property assessment and units must be built. If there is a fractional calculation, the payment-in-lieu fee is calculated at $337 per square foot.
Councilmember Billy Rankin pointed out that at every council retreat, the discussion always comes back to community. “We want people living here in town,” he said. “Two bucks a square foot is a joke. We need money in that fund to do things with the vacant land we own, for example.”
Escalante said he understood the idea behind the fees but felt the council should perhaps wait until the new study is completed in six months before adjusting the charge.
“I think if we raise the fees now, it sends a message,” said mayor pro tem Leah Williams.
“The message is to build now before really big fees might come in next year,” quipped Escalante.
Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Bond wanted to make sure the public would have a chance to comment on the fee increase before it went into effect. He was assured the council would be looking at an ordinance to make the changes. That ordinance will likely be considered for first reading at the November 16 council meeting.

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