Breckenridge hesitates on strategy to reduce development in Upper Blue
Summit Daily News
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council backed off a proposal to dissolve town-owned development rights in a revision of the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan, with some members saying the policy would waste taxpayer dollars and limit development options for future town governments.
The policy, which suggests governments eliminate public density units – a measurement of allowable development on a property – to offset affordable housing development, was approved by the town under a previous council to help achieve the new master plan’s goals of reducing density and maintaining the character of the Upper Blue Basin. The master plan, a 13-year-old guiding planning document for the valley, is being revised and updated by Upper Blue planning and elected officials.
But the current council backtracked on the proposed policy, offering instead to shelve, rather than retire, the density units – holding off development, but giving future town councils the ability to access the units through a public process if needed.
“I want future councils to have the option to be able to sell that (density) as a revenue generator for this community,” said Councilman Mike Dudick, who opposed the policy. “I’m not willing to give away taxpayer assets.”
Dudick said the limited number of density units the town would retire would have little impact on the overall development of the basin.
A unit of density can represent a single-family residence, 1,000 square feet of commercial space or lodging or multi-family buildings of limited square footage depending on local zoning. The value of a single unit varies. A backcountry density unit is valued at approximately $46,000, but in-town density units can be worth more.
The Upper Blue Basin includes approximately 15,000 units of density, more than 10,000 of which are already developed. Current housing development plans would require Breckenridge to retire 389 development units under the proposed policy, which mandates that a unit of town density be eliminated for every two units of affordable housing built. The old Upper Blue master plan froze the number of density units in the basin, but as an exception, allowed new units to be created for affordable housing developments.
“As we add affordable housing, I just think it impacts the livability of the entire basin,” said Councilman Eric Mamula, one of two council members who advocated reducing town-owned density to help offset the impact of new affordable housing units.
By limiting development and reducing potential development in the valley through the new master plan, officials hope to preserve the community character of the basin and avoid overloading infrastructure such as roads, sewers and grocery stores with new people in the area.
The Upper Blue Basin includes unincorporated Summit County from Farmer’s Korner to the Hoosier Pass summit as well as parts of the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. The master plan serves as a guiding document for planning and development in the basin, used by the Upper Blue Planning Commission, the Summit Board of County Commissioners and the planning commissions and governments of Blue River and Breckenridge as a reference for planning decisions.
The Summit Board of County Commissioners suggested the density reduction policy be worded more broadly to say governments will work to mitigate the impacts of affordable housing developments, but leaving out the details of how that will be accomplished. County planners said they will take that suggestion forward as the first draft of the revised master plan continues through the review process.
It will go before the Upper Blue Planning Commission March 24.
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