Repeal of affordable housing regs proposed |

Repeal of affordable housing regs proposed

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County’s affordable housing rules would be taken off the books under the first round of recommendations from the county’s land-use code advisory committee.

“With the housing market like it is right now, with short sales everywhere and foreclosures, it’s just hard to justify requiring any developer to come in and build more affordable housing to put on the market,” said Larry McCown of Rifle, chairman of the code committee and a former Garfield County commissioner.

The committee presented its first set of recommendations to county commissioners on Sept. 4.

Commissioners referred several of the proposed code revisions to the county planning commission for further review.

Any changes to the land-use code will be subject to public hearings before both the planning commission and the county commissioners.

The code previously required that 15 percent of houses in residential subdivision be targeted for certain income categories, and to include deed restrictions, such as appreciation caps, to maintain affordability over time.

County commissioners over the past year have gradually relaxed the rules, including lowering the requirement to 10 percent for subdivisions of 15 units or more, and limiting the rules to the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county.

Earlier this year, in an effort to kick-start residential building, commissioners suspended the rules for a three-year period.

But the advisory committee is recommending total removal of the affordable housing rules.

That, along with a proposal to allow subdivisions of five residential lots or less to be approved administratively, instead of going to the planning commission and county commissioners, are among the more controversial code revisions being recommended, McCown admitted.

But the market is to the point where price-controlled houses don’t make sense, he said.

“There are very few houses west of New Castle that wouldn’t be considered affordable housing,” McCown said. “And the market prices in the Roaring Fork Valley are what we used to require affordable housing to be.”

The advisory committee was appointed by the commissioners at the first of this year to review the county land-use code and recommend ways to streamline the application and review process and remove regulatory barriers.

The committee is made up mostly of ranchers and other larger-acre landowners, land-use attorneys, architects and planners, and oil and gas industry representatives.

The advisory committee recommendations are in addition to the first phase of land-use code changes recently approved by the commissioners, and which are now in effect.

The committee will continue to meet through the end of the year to address changes to other sections of the code.

Committee member Doug Pratte, a landscape architect, said the affordable housing rules could always be added back into the code if the market changes again.

Allowing an administrative review for small subdivisions could help the owners of distressed properties that can be developed, he said.

“Much of the activity you’re likely to see in the near future will involve smaller parcels,” Pratte said. “This could accommodate what they want to do a little more seamlessly, and maybe provide some relief for ranchers who are in economic distress.”

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