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EcoDwelling subdivision one step closer to developing in Rifle

Eco Dwelling LLC owner Fernando Argiro talks about the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model located at the Eco Dwelling factory site in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Rifle residents and city leaders continue to wrangle over a proposal to build a residential subdivision just blocks away from downtown. 

Eco Dwelling, a construction company specializing in using cold-formed recycled metal to assemble small, affordable houses, looks to build 17 single-family units on 1.93 acres at West 14th Street Marketplace. Each house, manufactured locally, is 900 square feet, two-bedroom with two bathrooms, and they would be placed on 3,000-square-foot lots. The lots are planned to be owner-occupied and the streets themselves will be privately owned. 

Eco Dwelling owner Fernando Arigo said price ranges for these houses are $265,000-$270,000 — nearly half the price of the average cost per single-family home currently in Rifle.



A view of the living room and kitchen inside the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model at the EcoDwelling factory in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Rifle City Council on Nov. 16 spent more than an hour taking public comments and later discussing Eco Dwelling’s preliminary development plan. The proposal eventually passed on a 3-2 vote, with Rifle Mayor Ed Green and Councilman Joe Carpenter voting against it. Council members Sean Strode and Chris Bornholdt were absent.

Mayor Green said that, without some sort of strong homeowner association agreement in place, it could lead to unchecked deterioration. He also worried that, despite the majority of Rifle residents commuting for work each day, the development would lead to Rifle becoming more of a bedroom community.



“We have our own history and we have our own spirit,” Green said. “I don’t believe we need to compromise our community in order to accommodate the upper valley.”

Carpenter said he couldn’t wrap his brain around charging $260,000 for a dwelling that size. He also acknowledged that, while the economy may be unfavorable and developers may have perhaps gotten greedy, Eco Dwelling-style housing “isn’t the theme of Rifle.”

“Sometimes you have to work a little harder to buy a house,” he said. “Sometimes you have to save up money.”

Eco Dwelling originally presented its plans to the city council in May. In addition to the initial 17 units, the company’s ultimate goal is to establish more than 200 units throughout town. That would include creating an additional 62 lots on 9.34 acres at 301 W. 16th St., and more units near the Rifle Animal Shelter and Grand River Hospital.

The proposal has so far sparked resident concerns over potential increases to traffic, possible impacts to wildland habitat and wetlands, and whether costs will remain as promised. Some also question if the developments fit into the city’s comprehensive plan.

Looking into the master bedroom of the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model at the EcoDwelling factory site in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Locals also started a petition opposing Eco Dwelling’s proposals. On it there are more than 400 signatures, some from people living as far away as Palisade and Snowmass.

Trish O’Grady is a Rifle resident and a petitioner opposing Eco Dwelling developments. She commented at the Nov. 16 meeting that the first 17 units don’t comply with the city’s comprehensive plan and that it’s going to make the area more congested.

“The city should encourage new housing development to occur in areas that would cause less congestion on Railroad Avenue,” O’Grady, citing from the city’s comprehensive plan, said. “This (proposal) will directly increase traffic on Railroad Avenue.”


Eco Dwelling’s dwelling

Eco Dwelling has a factory just east of Rifle on U.S. Highway 6. There, the company assembles houses using 3D printers and sheets of cold-formed recycled metal, Arigo said. Lumber is not used to build the houses.

“This house is made with the equivalent of three scrap cars,” he said. “If you think about all the development that we have right now, we save 8,250 trees and we’re recycling 450 cars.”

“It’s all made with zero-carbon emission. All of it.”

Relying on recycled metal is a major reason why Eco Dwelling can charge less per home as opposed to what Garfield County is seeing as median prices. In October, the Colorado Association of Realtors listed $620,000 as the median price for single-family homes in Garfield County.

Arigo is originally based out of Miami, running a company that converted shipping containers into housing units. He then came to Colorado six years ago to create affordable housing units for Aspen Skiing Company.

But it was during this journey that he noticed Rifle’s high housing demands. By July 2021, Arigo established Eco Dwelling’s current location and decided to make an initial, local investment of between $12 million and $13 million, he said. The factory itself employs 12 people directly working for Eco Dwelling, with another 35-40 indirect employees.

Eco Dwelling LLC owner Fernando Argiro talks about materials used to construct the EcoDwelling homes at the factory in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Local Eco Dwelling representative John Kuersten is a New Castle local. He said they were “shocked” when their proposal received community pushback last week.

He also spoke to the petition that’s been going around town, saying, “70% of those signatures aren’t even from the Rifle area.”

“It feels like (people) are being pressured to sign something that’s stuck in front of them,” he said.

Kuersten said petitioners are incorrectly referring to the development as “container homes.”

“It’s just not the facts,” he said. “We’ve been concentrating our time at these hearings getting the facts out.”

The exterior of the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model at the EcoDwelling factory in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Each unit is equipped with high ceilings, an open-design concept between the living room and kitchen and, in addition to the two bedrooms and bathrooms, interactive mirrors, washer and dryer units, a 55-inch flatscreen TV that comes free with the overall purchase, and more.

“The thing is, our main goal is to have those affordable houses,” Arigo said. “Affordable housing is the key for Rifle right now. They need to supply that niche of affordable housing to below $300,000.”

For a 3D tour of a house, visit Eco Dwelling’s Facebook page.

Diversifying

Late September is when the Rifle Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend to City Council that it approve Eco Dwelling’s 17-unit proposal.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, Rifle City Council members Alicia Gresley, Brian Condie and Clint Hostettler also voted in favor of Eco Dwelling’s proposal. 

They argued that similar developments — like King’s Crown Mobile Home Park — have already been approved by City Council in this same area.

“I can’t deny what you guys are trying to do,” Hostettler said.

Supporters also pointed out that Rifle’s housing market — much like the rest of Colorado — has grown more unattainable over the years.

“We need to open up diversity in having options,” Gresley said.

Kuersten said there’s already 40 people interested in purchasing one of their homes. There’s also a potential to have institutions like the local school district and hospital purchase units for a master lease to rent out to their workforces.


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