West GarCo 2022 in review: Rifle gets a taste of Not in My Backyard

Eco Dwelling LLC owner Fernando Argiro talks about the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model located at the Eco Dwelling factory site in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Unfavorably high housing prices continued to keep Rifle renters renting throughout 2022, and affordable housing proposals continued to pound on Rifle’s front door.

This year started with a promising lead. Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group presented to Rifle City Council a $20.34 million project that would establish a 50-unit apartment complex downtown, with most of the units being rented out at a monthly rate of no more than $900.

In March, local police and fire officials expressed concerns over emergency access to the proposed four-story apartment building. Mayor Ed Green also expressed concerns over potential increases in foot- and vehicle-traffic congestion. Since then, the proposal hasn’t found its way back before City Council.

Looking into the master bedroom of the 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ED1 model at the Eco Dwelling factory site in Rifle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

But nothing has grown more contentious than a proposal made by Eco Dwelling LLC to build 17 single-family units on 1.93 acres at West 14th Street Marketplace. Made with recycled metal, the two-bedroom units are 900 square feet and will be placed on 3,000-square-foot lots.

In addition to the initial 17 units, the company’s ultimate goal is to establish more than 200 units throughout town. That would include creating an additional 62 lots on 9.34 acres at 301 W. 16th St., and more units near the Rifle Animal Shelter and Grand River Hospital.

Eco Dwelling owner Fernando Arigo said in November price ranges for these houses are $265,000-$270,000 — nearly half the price of the average cost per single-family home currently in Rifle.

“The thing is, our main goal is to have those affordable houses,” Arigo said. “Affordable housing is the key for Rifle right now. They need to supply that niche of affordable housing to below $300,000.”

But some residents aren’t at all convinced this is Rifle’s best answer to the affordable housing crisis. The past few months saw some people publicly say that’s “a lot of money for a metal box” and that these “cramped, tiny-style units in this area will not have a good reflection on the appearance of Rifle.” Some residents went as far as starting a petition opposing the proposal. 

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

Mayor Green was also quoted by the Citizen Telegram in November saying, “We have our own history and we have our own spirit. I don’t believe we need to compromise our community in order to accommodate the upper valley.”

But as 2022 comes to an end, Rifle has at the very least made one small step toward creating more affordable housing in western Garfield County. Using land near Grand River Health donated by a private party, Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley succeeded in breaking ground in March on a project set to establish 20 affordable housing units being sold based on area median income. Called Wapiti Commons, Garfield County itself kicked in $200,000 for the project, with dibs on two units for county employees, while the city of Rifle had already waived $100,000 in development fees.

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