Council receives update on affordable housing projects in Crested Butte

Lots of activity from camping to renting to student participation

By Mark Reaman

A review for the town council of affordable housing projects in Crested Butte shows the issue is being addressed on many fronts but nothing is simple. At an August 5 council work session, town planner Michael Yerman and Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority executive director Karl Fulmer went over the half dozen projects in the works.

Of the eight people chosen to get lots in blocks 79 and 80 in the northwest side of town, four plan to close on the property in September and four will likely close early next year. Yerman said the four closing next year are rolling the purchase price into a construction loan so the town does not want to burden the owners with mortgage payments until they are ready to build next spring. That will leave a $150,000 shortfall in the town’s housing fund but the money will come in next May.

Yerman said the ROAH (Resident Occupied Affordable Housing) fees are lagging as well. Those fees are generated from new construction in town and thus far only $45,000 has come in for 2016.

As for the construction costs on the affordable housing lots in blocks 79 and 80, the town will not impose several fees. In an effort to make the projects more affordable, the town is waiving the building permit fees, the application fee, the affordable housing fee, and the town will pay two-thirds of the water and sewer tap fees. That amounts to close to $20,000 in fees per property.

Yerman said all eight lot owners will be using local banks to fund their project and the town is estimating the projects will come in at about $220 a square foot including the lot cost.

“We are using that figure because it is real. We want to make sure the winners of the lottery have their eyes open,” said Fulmer. “We are trying to help them and walk them through realistic building costs for what it is they want to build.”

Needs assessment

The countywide needs assessment survey went out this month and Yerman and Fulmer are encouraging everyone to take the time to fill it out. “I’ve heard some people that are disgruntled with the Housing Authority don’t want to participate,” said Fulmer. “But those are exactly who we want to fill out the survey so we can gather information and do a better job. Greater participation leads to better data so all residents and business owners are encouraged to take the ten-minute survey.”

The survey costs $77,500 and a draft should be completed in October. A final report is expected in mid-November.

Anthracite Place

Fulmer said 17 of 30 units have been leased in Anthracite Place and he expects it to be filled by the end of September. Fulmer said he has been involved in several public and private apartment projects and not one was ever filled at the end of the construction process. He had anticipated a two-month period to fill Anthracite Place and he said that appears to be on schedule.

“We have had more than 50 people start the application process,” he said. “Some have not completed the paperwork. Others have been denied because of prior rental history or criminal history. Applicant review is a time consuming process but part of the goal is to have a nice project for people to live.”

Designing next stage of 79-80

The town and housing authority are currently working on designs for about a dozen multi-family units that would be built on blocks 79-80.The hope is to break ground on two duplexes and a tri-plex next spring. The designs have to go through the Board of Zoning and Architectural review (BOZAR) process. The council will see costs in the 2017 budget.

Avalanche Campground

The town continues to evaluate Avalanche Campground just south of town as a potential place for some summer camping/housing. Yerman said consultants are evaluating the site and initial feedback from traffic engineers is that recreational vehicles (RVs) will not be allowed out there. He said RVs would require that accel-decel lanes be constructed on Highway 135 and that cost would be significant.

“There appears to be room for approximately 30 tourist tent sites or about 20 workforce housing tent sites,” he said. “We allow more room out there if the sites are used for people who are working and staying out there for longer periods of time.”

The consultants will compile a report and present their findings to the council in September.

Bringing the hammer down on noncompliant ADUs

On the ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) front, building and zoning director Bob Gillie said as of May 15, 28 of the 151 deed restricted units were of “questionable” compliance. That amounts to about 12 percent of the units in town. “Since that time we have tried to contact the owners through letters or in person and seven were deemed to be in compliance. We have not gotten a response from three of the owners, three others are in questionable compliance and 15 have been determined to be out of compliance. We have talked to most of them and we are working with the owners and most are trying to get into compliance.

“The hammer will start to come down this month for noncompliance,” Gillie continued. “The fine regime, which can be $100 per day, will start here soon. I’d expect some possible legal responses but it is about to get heavy.”

Teaching kids about construction

Perhaps the most interesting affordable housing project is set to begin this fall. A partnership with the Crested Butte Community School will begin for one of the micro lots on block 79. The school will work with students to design a home and go through the planning process. The idea is to then break ground on the house next spring. Assistance is being provided by local architects and contractors, but students will also assist with the building.

“This will likely be a fairly simple two bedroom, two bath house,” explained Yerman. “There is a $120,000 budget mainly for material costs and skilled labor like electricians. Once completed, the 1,000 square foot home will go into the town’s employee rental pool. It is a really cool project. And good for kids in the community who want to get a taste of the construction world.”

Space to Create for “creatives”

Another interesting potential project is the so-called “Space to Create” idea. That would be a housing project geared toward local “creatives.” Yerman said the application for the $5 million in state funds that would help fund the project is due in January.

Yerman said the one acre of land earmarked for affordable housing in the potential Cypress/Slate River Development annexation could be used for the project and the developers have expressed an interest in participating.

“We are trying to stay away from 60 percent AMI (Area Median Income) limits that Anthracite Place addresses,” said Yerman. “We want to target people making between 80 percent and 160 percent of AMI for future rental projects. This seems to be where the gap is, however the needs assessment will shed some light on that later this fall. I think our odds are pretty good to get some of the money since I think Carbondale, Mancos and North Fork might be the only other Creative Districts looking at these dollars.”

The AMI for a two-person household at 100 percent in 2015 was $57,400.

Yerman said he wants to come up with a “good creative concept plan” for the one acre site that could include both living and work space for artists. There is a potential for up to 40 units on the site. He said it might be worth having a design contest with a cash prize to bring in ideas. He said previous such projects were mainly rehabilitation for existing buildings and this idea of starting from scratch could be a new venture for the state project.

Councilman Jim Schmidt had some hesitation with the idea because there are so many unanswered questions. “What percentage has to go to artists? How much space would be used for work space and not directly for housing? There are lots of unanswered questions for me,” he said.

Yerman said a certain percentage of the units would have to go to “creatives” but he said that encompasses a broad range of people from artists to chefs to architects. “That window is wide open,” he said. “Part of the idea is that someone would live in a space upstairs and have a work studio below. I know we still have to bring a lot of information about the idea to the council, but if you guys aren’t interested in this at all, I won’t pursue it.”

Councilman Chris Ladoulis wondered if it could service some seasonal housing needs.

Yerman said it would be a rental project but other projects were in the works, including one on the mountain that could provide dormitory type accommodations that might be better suited for that need.

Yerman said the Space to Create idea was probably a two to three year project.

Private-public partnership potential

Finally, Yerman said the town is in the preliminary stage of working with a private developer that might be interested in constructing 16 rental properties on block 76 by Rainbow Park. Those would be geared to people making between 80 and 200-percent of the AMI. The town would have a 40 year lease with the developer and then take ownership of the structures.

“This is all very hypothetical at the moment. The needs assessment survey is key for this project,” explained Yerman. “But the bottom line is that you could get more units in the ground faster. It is a different approach than selling the lots and the design can go through the process all at once. This is very preliminary but there is opportunity.”

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