Rifle P&Z recommends approval for preliminary plan, zoning request for 17-lot Eco Dwelling development | PostIndependent.com

Rifle P&Z recommends approval for preliminary plan, zoning request for 17-lot Eco Dwelling development

Rifle resident Harold Martinez offers public comment during a Rifle Planning and Zoning meeting on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Early stages of a proposed residential development of 17 lots in Rifle got the go-ahead from the Rifle Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday night.

Under the condition that storage units be placed in the back of the houses, a fence be constructed along the property’s north end and that the developer works with city staff to determine owner occupancy issues, the commission unanimously recommended approval of a preliminary plan to construct the 17 lots on two parcels north of the City Market gas station.

The commission also unanimously passed a Planned Unit Development rezoning request that would change the 1.93-acre plot from mixed-use development to residential.

According to the city’s comprehensive plan adopted in 2020, that area allows for 12-30 dwelling units per acre. The proposed 17 units comes in at 8.94 dwelling units per acre.

Each lot is 3,000 square feet. The two-bedroom houses would each be 900 square feet in size. Concrete parking pads for the houses are 20-by-24 feet, with additional parking options on site, developers said.

Intended price points for the lots range between $250,000-$275,000, they said. 

“I really like the design of these,” P&Z Commissioner Helen Rogers said. “I think they will attract professionals. I think this is the type of housing they’re looking for. To me, it looks good.”

An example of a locally manufactured house Eco Dwelling LLC proposes to place in Rifle.
Courtesy/Eco Dwelling

Eco Dwelling LLC, a housing manufacturing company that assembles homes using recycled cold-formed steel, first came before Rifle City Council in May. Owned by Fernando Argiro, Eco Dwelling originally started in Miami and was inspired by the creation of homes out of shipping containers.

Argiro said on Tuesday he opened a new factory in Rifle because his brother, who works for Aspen Skiing Company, noticed a need for employee housing. The Rifle factory now employs about 10 people.

In addition to the proposed 17 lots, Eco Dwelling has plans to build another 62 lots on 9.34 acres of land that’s still technically in unincorporated Garfield County south of 16th Street and east of Rifle High School. 

Rifle Planning Director Patrick Waller said the site still needs to go through an annexation process involving the county.

Since the original proposal, many local residents have voiced both opposition and support for the proposed neighborhoods. Tuesday’s meeting was no different, with a handful of people offering public comment.

Opponents of the development argue it’s going to take away a giant green space east of the high school and affect wildlife. They also argue the proposal is too congested, will exacerbate traffic issues and is still too unaffordable for the size of the units.

“That’s a lot of money for a metal box,” Rifle resident Mark Hayes said.

Harold Martinez, a resident on 16th Street, said, yes, affordable housing in Rifle is needed for people like nurses, law enforcers and teachers. But, there are better places for the development, he said. He proposed the plan be placed on hold.

“These cramped, tiny-style units in this area will not have a good reflection on the appearance of Rifle,” he said, noting it’s on one of the main corridors through town, “and it’s a very busy intersection.”

Housing prices right now in Rifle, according to the numbers, are pretty high. Slides from Eco Dwelling show the average home sales price in Rifle is $607,818 (July 2022 figures) and sits on the market for about 27 days before being purchased.

Meanwhile, right now in Rifle there are only five homes available for less than $350,000.

Eco Dwelling representative and local owner John Kuersten said they’re currently working with places like Colorado Mountain College and the Garfield Re-2 School District to help fill these houses with people like teachers. 

This is why proponents of the development argue it will in fact bring in more affordable housing to the area and help younger families get established.

Courtesy/Eco Dwelling LLC
Housing plans to build units between Rifle High School and Railroad Avenue in Rifle.

Rifle resident James Martinez is a contractor with Rifle-based Martinez Western Constructors. He said houses in Rifle already have tight setbacks, and, with rising inflation, “We don’t really have a position for first-time home buyers. Period.

“Change is a good thing for the young,” he said. “We want change, we want more people, we want to grow. … I don’t know if anyone knows about tax dollars, but I know for a fact it’s going to impact this community greatly.”

The development is a $60 million investment, Argiro said.

“That was always my intention to bring the solution here,” he said of offering more affordable housing for new families. “I’m going to make a huge investment in this town.”

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