Senators say 40-acre Summit County parcel ‘no longer suitable’ for Forest Service Management
July 19, 2013
U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced legislation to facilitate the use of Forest Service land for affordable housing in Summit County,
The legislation calls for a 40-acre land exchange from the Dillon Ranger District to Summit County. It serves as a companion bill to the one Rep. Jared Polis introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in June, the Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act.
"This legislation is a result of a community-driven effort to create housing opportunities for people who live and work in our communities," Polis said in a written statement. "The Lake Hill site sits in between Interstate 70, the Dillon Dam Road and condominiums, and it's essential that we allow the community to use this property in a way that improves their quality of life and provides necessary affordable housing."
Mike Saccone, a spokesman for Sen. Mark Udall, said representatives from the government and Forest Service agreed the transfer would benefit all those involved.
"This is a better use of the land — to provide access to affordable housing, which is always an issue in tourism-driven communities," Saccone said. "It would take the land off the books for the Forest Service and let Summit County achieve a goal they have been working on for a long time."
Conchita Cruz, a spokeswoman for Polis, reported the congressman has secured a hearing for the House version of this bill in the House Natural Resources Committee scheduled for Friday, July 19.
Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs just returned from the capitol, where he worked to push the legislation forward.
Gibbs said the Forest Service-owned land has been impacted by highways and infrastructure, and trees have been damaged by the bark-beetle epidemic.
"It's lost its forest characteristics," Gibbs said.
The commissioner said allowing Summit County to purchase the land would be a step in the right direction to address the need for affordable housing the area.
"We need to making sure we have adequate housing, whether it's for rental or for purchase, for people who live and work in our community," he said.
A 2013 Workforce Housing Needs Assessment found 64 percent of Summit County's households believe the availability of affordable housing for the workforce is serious or critical. It also found that almost 40 percent of households are cost-burdened by housing payments that are out of proportion with their incomes.
"The majority of residents in Summit County view this as a critical problem," Gibbs said. "This is a step forward to helping solve that."
The commissioner met a handful of key players during his visit to the capitol.
"Over the last few days I've had a busy schedule meeting with committee staffers on the House and the Senate side," Gibbs said.
He said he also met with Robert Bonnie — who was recently nominated by President Obama for Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Agriculture — and has oversight of the Forest Service.
"The U.S. Forest Service is planning on testifying in support of this," Gibbs said.
Government officials involved with the proposal said it has received broad support from the Summit's Board of County Commissioners, the towns of Frisco and Dillon and Conservation Colorado.