State of the Grand Valley ends with final thoughts on housing, childcare and economy

Evan Zislis, director de participación comunitaria del Aspen Institute, habla durante la Reunión del Estado de Grand Valley el 21 de septiembre.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Parachute and Battlement Mesa’s final State of the Grand Valley meeting on Sept. 21 highlighted several ideas on how the two communities can better work cohesively to bolster housing opportunities, childcare needs and economic development.

The meeting was led by Evan Zislis, a director of community engagement for the Aspen Institute. The 40 or so people who attended split into three groups. The groups addressed each of these issues and came up ideas on what they envision for the future of this community

“For the last year, your community leaders from Parachute and Battlement Mesa have been getting together regularly to talk about, ‘How do we bring the two communities together to strengthen this part of Western Garfield County?’” Zislis said, “So that, eventually, when we start talking to Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, we’re stronger because we stand united as the Grand Valley.

“What we want to do tonight is fold you into that process.”

One group was told by developers and local officials about two major housing projects that could potentially attract and retain workers like teachers.

“There’s no doubt the need is here,” Grand Valley Historical Society President Judith Hayward said.

There’s an effort to build 48 attainable housing units off Battlement Parkway proposed by De Beque-based Rising Tides Enterprises LLC. The proposed subdivision is called Halfmoon Village.  

Parachute Town Manager speaks on developments during the State of the Grand Valley meeting on Sept. 21.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

There’s another effort to convert the Parachute Inn to long-term affordable housing units. This project is being spearheaded by Adam Roy, a project engineer and developer with Aspen-based Headwaters Housing Partners.

“We have a plan to convert it to a mix of studio, one and two bedrooms,” he said. “We’re still working on what exactly that mix is.”

People sitting in on the presentations asked if these projects would have potential deed restrictions and if rates will be based if based on Area Median Income.

This discussion over potential projects transitioned into other local possibilities.

Hannah Klausman sits on the West Mountain Regional Housing Coalition and is also the assistant Director of Economic and Community Development at the city of Glenwood Springs.

She said the coalition includes participation from eight cities. If Parachute and Battlement Mesa join, they could better learn about housing policies and initiatives.

“We’re going after some of the grant funding to start up our strategic plans on the types of affordable housing policies that can benefit our communities and our region as a whole,” she said.

She said one example of what the coalition does with funding is looking into a “buy-down program.”

“This would be using funding to purchase a market-rate home as the organization and then put a deed restriction on it, and then turn it around and sell it at a more affordable price,” she said.

“(It’s) just the concept of purchasing market rates and then using the funding to close that gap to be able to sell it at a more attainable or an affordable rate for a family in that particular area.”

The Western Garfield County communities have now held three State of the Grand Valley meetings since March, and their ultimate goal is overcoming a history forged by energy booms and busts. 

Parachute was officially incorporated in 1908. Battlement Mesa was developed for Exxon Mobile employee housing in the 1970s.

Since then, Garfield County itself has overseen Battlement Mesa, while Parachute is its own autonomous entity. The two communities share the same school district, parks and recreation department, fire district and wastewater facilities.

A local Battlement Mesa and Parachute steering committee plans to continue to gather information to formally hold Grand Valley-centric meetings next year.

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