Roaring Fork School District gets closer to affordable housing |

Roaring Fork School District gets closer to affordable housing

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – An affordable housing development that would provide up to 89 deed-restricted multi-use units for Roaring Fork School District Re-1 employees is gathering momentum.After more than a year in the works, a land swap between RFSD and the city of Carbondale for the old Carbondale Elementary School and a 2.7-acre plot of land near the new Roaring Fork High school is scheduled to be finalized the end of July or in early August, according to Shannon Pelland, RFSD assistant superintendent of business services.The city expressed interest in the old elementary school as a place to house area nonprofits, according to Pelland. The remaining land between that facility and the old Carbondale Middle School will be the site of the housing development.The project is one of the top priorities for the district, according to RFSD Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.”We’ve got a turnover of about 70 employees every year,” Haptonstall said. “I would bet that about 80 percent of those can be attributed to the cost of living around here.”Haptonstall said that being able to offer affordable housing to first-year teachers would be a great asset for recruiting and retention.”To be able to say that we’ve got affordable housing will broaden the pool of teachers we have to choose from, and I think it will keep people here longer,” Haptonstall said.The district has already had about seven teachers who’ve signed contracts last spring pull out because they couldn’t find an affordable place to live. This development would help by providing rental and for-sale units to RFSD employees first, city employees second, RFSD partners, and then open to the general public. However, Pelland said that she didn’t think that it would ever reach the fourth tier due to the interest from RFSD employees alone.One of the major challenges for the project has been finalizing a contract with the developer and the district. This is partly because certain laws governing school districts makes the process “extremely difficult,” Pelland said. But she did say that the district is close to signing a contract with Perry Rose LLC as the developer for the project.”We still do not have a finalized contract with them yet,” Pelland said. “We’ve been working in ‘good faith’ to this point. There are so many statutes and regulations on financing and other laws specific to school districts that the whole system to set up a structure so we can do an affordable housing project is extremely complicated.”Part of the reason for the delay is that the contract with Perry Rose LLC will not be between only them and RFSD, but will also include another third entity – like a housing authority – possibly comprising school district employees and city council members, Pelland said. The details of that entity have yet to be determined.Currently the property has been rezoned for high and medium density residential development, and now the district and Perry Rose LLC are trying to develop a plan that will meet the needs of the district and the city of Carbondale, according to Pelland.”One of the things we’ve been working on that we are just now getting the results back from is a staff housing survey,” Pelland said. The survey will help the district determine what type of units would best suit the needs of its employees. Pelland indicated that there would probably be from studio apartments to three-bedroom apartments available.Both Pelland and Haptonstall anticipated that construction could begin as soon as summer 2009, but couldn’t guarantee that date to be accurate.”It depends on how the financing comes together,” Pelland said. “The earliest would be next summer, but that may be optimistic.”Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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