Project near El Jebel touts its plan to add affordable housing
ASPEN, Colorado ” A midvalley developer hopes to secure approval for a project with a promise to spend about $80 million on 169 affordable housing units.
Developer Ace Lane will go back to the Roaring Fork Planning Commission on Thursday to seek approval for The Tree Farm project across Highway 82 from the Willits Town Center.
The Tree Farm was tabled by the planning commission in January because members wanted more information on key issues, such as a market analysis. Bonsai Communities, Lane’s planning team, acknowledged in a study that the short-term demand for the project “could be questioned.” However, the prevailing trends in the Roaring Fork Valley, including demand for affordable housing, are bound to return, the Bonsai Community’s study says.
“During the past 20 years, spanning several recessions, the population of Eagle County and Colorado has continued to increase every year,” the study says. “Resulting housing markets have subsided in the near term, but have continued to exhibit a trend of strong national growth on a 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-year basis.”
Lane’s project is being reviewed by Eagle County. The town of Basalt has been invited to weigh in with its comments. The Tree Farm is one of the few major projects in the midvalley to go through the review process since the recession struck last fall. The proposal includes 319 total residential units overall and 96,375 square feet of commercial space.
Tight credit hasn’t daunted Lane’s team. The study estimated that construction could start as soon as next year and be phased through 2017, assuming it earns approval.
Lane and company are banking on the project’s ability to ease affordable housing demand to help it gain approval. The market analysis cited Basalt studies that show the town needs 1,400 affordable housing units by 2017 to serve its own needs. Basalt currently has only 56 deed-restricted affordable housing units.
In addition, town consultants have identified a need for 400 additional affordable housing units on the town’s fringes, such as El Jebel.
“The Tree Farm, with 169 deed-restricted units ” 53 percent of the project ” by far represents the largest [proposed] solution to the existing Basalt/El Jebel affordable housing shortfall, representing roughly $80 million in private investment expense while providing housing for approximately 400 workers and residents,” the developer’s market analysis says.
The affordable housing would be deed-restricted, with sales prices and appreciation dictated by Eagle County guidelines. Buyers also would have to qualify under asset and income limits.
Another part of the developer’s study showed what the project could mean to the coffers of local governments. The project, once completed, would have an actual value of about $233.3 million. Its assessed value, for property tax purposes, would be $27.7 million.
It would raise about $235,576 annually in 2009 dollars for Eagle County government through property taxes, the study says. The Roaring Fork School District would get $940,806 in tax revenue, highest among special taxing districts.
In addition, The Tree Farm would provide sales tax revenues on an estimated $13.1 million retail sales per year. The study didn’t estimate what Eagle County and other special districts will spend on extra services on The Tree Farm.
In addition to the market analysis and tax impact, the planning commission members said in January they also want to scrutinize the project’s effects on schools and traffic.
The review, which will include a chance for members of the public to speak, will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the Eagle County building in El Jebel.
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