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Garfield County suspends affordable housing rules

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Home builders looking to develop in unincorporated areas of Garfield County will have a free pass on the county’s affordable housing requirements for three years.

County commissioners, at their regular Monday meeting, unanimously approved the “building incentive” designed to spur more housing construction in the county.

The latest move by the commissioners suspends the affordable housing obligation for developers starting March 1 of this year until March 2015.



In December, the commissioners amended the county’s affordable housing regulations. Those changes included:

• Limiting the rules to apply only to residential subdivisions in the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale areas of the county, where housing prices tend to be higher.



• Increasing the trigger point for residential subdivisions to come under the affordable housing requirements, from five units to 15.

• Lowering the required number of deed-restricted units in a subdivision from 15 percent back to 10 percent.

The requirement used to be 10 percent dating back to 2000, when the regulations were first put in place, until 2008 when the rules were changed as part of a series of county land-use code revisions.

Under the further relaxed housing rules approved Monday, any houses that are built within the next three years will be subtracted from the overall number of units granted in the subdivision approvals.

For example, if a developer is approved for 25 lots and five houses are constructed over the next three years, the percentage of required deed-restricted units would be based on 20 lots, rather than the original 25.

County staff had recommended a two-year suspension of the rules. The term was extended to three years at County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky’s suggestion.

“I believe it’s going to take that long for building to come back,” he said.

The incentive is aimed at kick-starting the lagging home construction market.

Home building and residential real estate sales have been slow to rebound from the downturn in the housing market, locally and nationally, that accompanied the 2008 recession.

Sarah Thorsteinson works as the government affairs director for several Western Slope Realtors associations, including the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors. She applauded the Garfield commissioners’ move.

“We need anything at this point to try to get the housing market going again,” said Thorsteinson, who attended the commissioners’ meeting. “Any little bit of incentive can help.”

Although there are a lot of houses currently on the market, it takes new construction to help stimulate the market, she said.

One thing developers might also consider would be to buy some of the lower-priced units currently on the market, and convert them to affordable housing units to satisfy their eventual obligation, Thorsteinson suggested.

“Once building gets going, I think you’re going to see a trickle-down effect,” she said. “You have to look at the big picture.”

In other business at the Feb. 13 BOCC meeting, the board:

• Appointed several new members to the county planning commission for terms ranging from one to three years.

Incumbent planning commissioners who were re-appointed to the board include Bob Fullerton and Adolfo Gorra of Glenwood Springs, Sean Martin of Carbondale and John Kuerston of Rulison.

New planning commissioners appointed to fill vacant seats were Stephen Damm of Glenwood Springs, Michelle Foster of Parachute/Battlement Mesa and Greg Shaner of Silt.

Shaner and Damm were appointed as alternate members, along with sitting commissioner Michael Sullivan.

• Agreed to forward a letter to the U.S. Forest Service in support of a proposal for a new motorized trail link from the West Elk Trailhead to the Triangle Park area north of Rifle.

• Revised an agricultural land lease next to the Garfield County Regional Airport that was signed with a local rancher in December. A follow-up survey significantly reduced the size of the parcel from 47 acres to 26 acres. The lease payment will be adjusted accordingly, from $1,000 per month to $548.

• Renewed an agreement with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to provide bus service along the Grand Hogback route between West Glenwood and Rifle.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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