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An affable affordable housing decision

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Garfield County commissioners reaffirmed their support Wednesday for an affordable housing project at Glenwood Meadows, opening the door for construction on the 120-unit apartment complex to begin this spring.During a meeting with Glenwood Springs City Council, commissioners John Martin and Trési Houpt indicated their willingness to provide $1.5 million toward the project. They had been having second thoughts about that commitment, which the county had agreed to last year.Martin has been the swing vote on the issue, after Commissioner Larry McCown had opposed the county’s financial contribution. On Wednesday he described himself at one point as being “on the bubble” on the question.”Business-wise I’m being very frugal,” he explained.Martin then said if he was running a corporation he’d say no to the project, but the county has a social obligation to support a project that could lead to further regional affordable housing efforts.”This is a chance. I’m hanging my hat on this chance,” he said.County officials had asked for Wednesday’s meeting with the city, but council member Joe O’Donnell found himself unclear about the reason for it.”I’ve got one question: Why are we here?” he asked.Houpt said the meeting may not have been necessary after she got satisfactory answers to her questions about the project from Meadows developers Monday. Those questions arose after City Council decided late last year what concessions the city would provide in support of the project.”There were some pretty interesting numbers floating around that the county thought they were eating after your negotiations,” she told council members.Principally, county officials worried that the county Housing Authority might be taking on a liability of more than $5 million resulting from the terms of the city’s assistance. The authority will become a partner in the project and have the first right of refusal to buy it if the developers decide to sell it, once they are allowed to do so in 15 years. However, the city is requiring that $800,000 in development fees being deferred by the city be paid back, with interest, when the property is sold or in 40 years.The developers told the county Monday that any repayment obligation would come off the asking price of the property rather than being added to the cost to the housing authority.Nevertheless, Houpt looked for some commitment from the city Wednesday that it would work with the housing authority and consider waiving repayment requirements if the property came up for sale. But Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen said council couldn’t place such obligations on future councils.Council member Dave Merritt said the city, county and Roaring Fork Re-1 School District all would need to consult with each other about purchasing the project if the opportunity arose. Council had waived about $200,000 in school impact fees as part of its concessions to developers.County officials have questioned whether the city is making as much of a financial commitment as the county is to the housing project. On Wednesday, both county and city officials emphasized the sacrifices they were making on behalf of the project. Martin said the Meadows contribution “puts a hole” in the county’s capital improvements budget, while Christensen said the city is deferring collection on sewer fees at a time when it is trying to find money for a new wastewater treatment plant.Merritt said he appreciated the county’s support, and added, “Each of us brought to the table what we could.”The $28 million project is being made possible by a variety of funding sources, including the state and federal governments. In return, it will restrict occupancy to lower-income residents for 40 years.”We could never build this sort of structure with what you’re investing or we’re investing in this,” Houpt told council. “… It’s probably one of the better investments we can make.” Arny Porath, one of the project’s developers, praised the city and county for their assistance, which developers have said was essential to it going forward.”I think they went beyond the actual costs of supporting this project and really saw it as something that they’re committing to the future. They know they need housing so it’s the socially correct thing to do and they hope that this project, being as prominent as it will be, sends a message to other cities in the county and throughout the area,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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