Breck council rips developer for deficiencies in town project
BRECKENRIDGE – Over the past few months, the Breckenridge planning staff has fielded numerous complaints from citizens about Gibson Heights, the town’s affordable housing component in the Vista Point neighborhood east of Breckenridge.
What the planning staff discovered did not make town council members happy.
According to Town Planner Mike Mosher, the lap siding on the sides of the triplexes in the project are larger than what was agreed to in the development plans, the colors don’t match those the developer proposed, and the foundations of some of the buildings are higher – in some cases, up to 6 feet higher – above grade. In a memo to the council, Mosher said architect Mark Hogan of Baker+Hogan+Houx believed it is the staff’s responsibility to catch such changes.
“We didn’t think it was an issue,” Hogan said. “It never was brought up at planning commission. It’s a note on the drawing. We didn’t do anything behind anyone’s back.”
The developer – Gordon Ferris, executive director of the Summit Housing Authority – and Mosher and Hogan said they planned to repaint one of the triplexes and the trim on others planners say is too bright. The grade issue will be rectified once the project is built and the piles of dirt at the construction site are spread out. But there is nothing they can do about the lap siding.
Council members said they were most angry because the changes were made without their consent, thus giving the appearance that town planning rules can be flouted. What makes matters worse, they said, is the project was subsidized by the town.
“The changes were made to accommodate the project, to keep it moving and keep the costs down,” Mosher told the town council Tuesday afternoon. “To go back and change the siding would be a great expense.”
Council members are less concerned about building details than about the apparent deviation from the development process.
“It’s important to the town to have these processes in place, and that people take it seriously,” said Councilmember Larry Crispell. “We need to know that what gets approved by the planning commission is what gets done in the field. These changes were made without our input.”
Council members cited a developer who’d built a home in the historic district. That home also had different siding than the plans indicated, and town officials made the developer remove it and replace it with the correct size siding. Council members also said had Ferris notified them the correct siding was more expensive and could compromise the affordability of the project, they would have been willing to help.
“I’m really angry,” said Councilmember J.B. Katz. “To say that it’s the staff’s responsibility to catch changes … I’m appalled to hear it. We have a lot of experience with Baker+Hogan, and if it were up to me, maybe I wouldn’t use Baker+Hogan in the future.”
Katz said she has a friend who purchased a unit in the neighborhood and is “visibly upset” when she talks about it.
“It’s not what she thought she was buying,” Katz said. “And I’m embarrassed. She says she guesses it will look better when it’s finished, and I say, “it better.’ This is somebody’s home.”
Council members debated whether to make the developer change the siding, but decided against it, primarily because the cost could be passed on to buyers.
“A town project should be held to the same standards as everyone else, and I want everyone to believe that,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “I don’t care about the colors, the lap siding, the elevation; it doesn’t look like a quality project. Affordable housing does not imply substandard housing. To me this looks substandard.”
He added a group of people with whom he toured the neighborhood said they thought it was “becoming a joke.”
“We’ve got to make sure this project turns out the way we thought it would,” Mamula said. “The process gets tainted with the affordable thing. You feel you got to cut corners because it’s affordable; we’re telling you you don’t.”
Hogan said the project will look exactly like the drawings once it is complete.
“I take exception to the fact you’ve written this project off,” Ferris said. “It’s akin to me going into Downstairs at Eric’s (owned by Mamula’s son) and saying, “This hamburger’s terrible. Where’s the lettuce and tomato?’, and the guy hasn’t put it on yet. We’re not done with this project.”
Mamula promised if the project ends up as originally drawn on the plans, he will publicly apologize to Ferris.
“If it’s screwed up, it’s because we didn’t hold this to the same standards as everyone else,” Mamula said. “Unless something is changed up there, this is not a shining moment for this group relative to the commitment we’ve made to affordable housing.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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