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County sees inequity in housing project

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Garfield County officials want to talk with Glenwood Springs City Council about what County Commissioner John Martin says appears to be unequal contributions to an affordable housing project by the two entities.Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen worries that the county’s support for the 120-unit rental housing development at Glenwood Meadows could be wavering, which could throw the project’s viability into doubt.”I thought that all of the parties were working in good faith with the developers and had the pieces in place to make it happen. I hope that everybody will continue to hold firm in what they were planning on doing,” Christensen said.Martin said the county is concerned that the city appears to be giving less to the project than the county is.”We want to make sure it’s fair and equitable, that we’re putting in the same amount as the city is,” Martin said.The county has agreed to chip in as much as $1.5 million in cash to the project, which would be restricted to lower-income residents.Developers had sought a like amount from the city. In November, City Council agreed to defer payment on more than $700,000 in development fees, including $202,000 in school impact fees. It also agreed to delay enforcement of a requirement for a one-acre park on the site, which developers say will cost $350,000.Martin said the city essentially made a loan that will be repaid with interest, versus the county’s contribution of “hard cash of a million-plus.”But project developer Arny Porath said the county will get its money back. The county Housing Authority will receive yearly revenue for its involvement in the project, and when the apartment complex is sold after 40 years the authority will receive the difference between what revenues it had been paid earlier and $1.5 million, he said.Martin said he also wants to look at whether fee waivers approved by the city could hurt other jurisdictions. The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 had opposed waiving school impact fees, but city leaders hope the project could help provide housing for school personnel.Christensen said the city isn’t as wealthy as the county, but as proportions of their respective budgets has made a larger financial commitment to the housing development than the county has. He said the city also is accommodating a development that will require city services, even though there’s no assurance that the people living there will be working in Glenwood.Martin said county officials have been trying to meet with the city to get answers to its questions.”We need to have a closer contact with them. We’ve had a difficult time getting them to sit down at the table and discuss this issue,” he said.”We wish to be fair and help each other out, because the citizens, we’re trying to get housing for them,” he said.If it turns out that the Meadows proposal isn’t feasible, the county could look for another affordable housing project to be involved with instead, he said.Porath said he has heard concerns about fairness from the county for months now but isn’t worried that it might back away from its commitment.”Nobody’s picking up the phone and telling us, ‘Guess what, we’re changing our mind.’ I haven’t heard that,” he said.But he said a reduction in the commitments from the county or city could make the project unworkable.Christensen said the city won’t renege on what it has promised. He also doesn’t see the situation as one that should involve negotiations between the city and county. The developers have gone to several entities for assistance, including federal and state agencies, he noted. The city negotiated with developers regarding what final pieces of assistance were needed to make the project a reality, he said.”These individuals have put a lot of effort and expense into trying to make this project happen. I think it’s still very tenuous as far as if anybody reduces the level of support that they have committed it may … fail to occur,” Christensen said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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