The town of Breckenridge has put a hold on a new affordable rental apartment project. Known as Pence Miller Village, the proposed 81-unit, two-building structure was planned to be built on land at 837 and 841 Airport Road.
Tim Casey, owner of Mountain Marketing Associates, a partner on the project, said his company will definitely go back and come up with a new design, most likely reducing the number of units from 81 to 30 and include surface parking, instead of underground parking, to reduce the cost.
“There’s a definite need for rental workforce housing, we’ve already identified that,” he said. “In order to get the number of units on site, that required underground parking, which is very expensive, hence the larger subsidies.”
The estimated subsidy — money from the town to keep the price of the rental affordable — was $65,000 per unit, which would total more than $5 million.
At the town council budget retreat at the end of October, many council members expressed concern about subsidizing the project at such a high cost.
“I don’t have the stomach for $5 million and a really tall building,” said Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney. “Before we go down this path, I’d like to look at surface parking, lower subsidies.”
This property was part of the town of Breckenridge land exchange, which was completed in the spring of 2012.
Besides cost, concerns were also raised in the community and by the planning commission about the height of the proposed project.
The area is a two-story district, three stories if it meets certain landscaping requirements, and the proposed project was almost five stories. But the negative points garnered from the extra height were made up with positive points based on other amenities and designs.
Breckenridge resident Carol Rockne voiced her concerns about the project height to town council on multiple occasions, and said she was worried the town was distorting or ignoring land use guidelines and building codes.
“I have lived here a long time and have seen other ‘dire needs’ used as the excuse for behemoth buildings being constructed that were totally out of scale with their neighborhoods,” she said.
As of Oct. 15, one story from both Building 1 and Building 2 at Pence Miller had been removed, which reduced their overall height by 8.5 feet.
The Development Code defines the story-to-height conversion specifically as: “A conversion factor used in determining allowed building heights outside the Historic District for all structures except Single Family residences and Duplexes, where the first two stories of a building are allocated thirteen (13) feet in height each, and all subsequent stories are each allocated twelve (12) feet in height. One half story equals six (6) feet.” Town staff believed the condition described above had been met by this design.
Casey said the money from the rental properties would first go to pay back any debt on the project from a large government loan. Then the money would cover operating expenses and ongoing costs. Beyond that, the profits would be split equally among the partnership, half going to Mountain Marketing and Corum Real Estate, another partner, and half going back to the town into the affordable housing fund.
“(Pence Miller) is a drop in the bucket,” he said. “The need is great and we want to come up with a project the community embraces. We need to allow families who work here to also live here.”
Casey said by reducing the number of units and including surface parking, the subsidy cost would be significantly less, and the height would also be significantly reduced.
Peter Grosshuesch, director of community development for the town, said there is no set time line for when a new proposal would be seen by the council.
“We’ve been told informally that if this comes back in, it needs to address concerns about the subsidies, heights and density,” he said.
Jim Lamb, planning commission chair, said at the Oct. 15 meeting that issues regarding the height or unit density needed to be addressed based strictly on the town code.
“Pretty clearly the audience doesn’t like this project, but our job is to look at the code,” he said. “This is coming in half of the density and half the allowed mass allocated to the site and it makes sense that this is combined between the two parcels. Employee housing is sorely needed in this community.”
In the end, the planning commission provided a point analysis of positive 23 points total and negative 20 points, resulting in a point analysis of positive three points, and a failing of absolute policy 3A, which limits a project’s maximum allowed square footage. Town council decided not to move forward with the project as proposed due mainly to the high subsidy costs.
“It would be helpful if we scrutinized land use districts before applications were made,” Mayor John Warner said. “Pence Miller is an example of a land use district that was set up for failure.”