County pumps brakes on Lake Hill workforce housing, citing “more homework to do”

Jack Queen
Pictured here is the future site of Lake Hill, a 436-unit workforce housing development. Shovels will hit the ground at least a year later than expected as county and town of Frisco officials work through the myriad details of the ambitious project.
Kevin Fixler/Summit Daily News archive

The county’s largest workforce-housing development is moving along, albeit on a slower schedule than initially expected as officials continue to iron out the details.

Initial infrastructure work on Lake Hill, a 436-unit workforce-housing project just north of Frisco, had been tentatively slated to begin this spring, and construction on the first phase of the development was expected to start in 2018.

That timetable has now been pushed back at least a year as county and Frisco officials continue to study the ambitious project’s potential impacts on the town and ways the two governments could work together to bring it to fruition.

“We have to take another look at our timelines,” said county planning director Don Reimer. “I think our initial goal was to be having the first units on the ground and ready to be occupied in spring of 2019, and I think maybe that was an unrealistic goal when we were starting the master planning process.”

That master plan is mostly complete, however it is currently being amended to include some clarifications requested by the Frisco Town Council. Although the project will be on county land, Frisco has been brought into the planning process because of its close proximity to the 45-acre parcel. At one point, the town even considered annexing the property, although that’s now off the table.

Lake Hill will also use Frisco’s water and sewer systems, and the specifics of that arrangement along with myriad other moving parts need to be sorted before shovels hit the ground.

“I think it has to wait because there’s just a bunch of analysis that we have to do to understand and have common agreement with the town council,” said County Commissioner Thomas Davidson. “There’s just a bunch of homework that we’ve got to do before we could move forward, and that’s going to necessitate a longer timeline.”

Late last month, county officials held a joint meeting with the Frisco council to clarify some of those points. One of the biggest considerations was how putting around 1,000 new residents on the town’s doorstep might affect traffic at the key intersection between Highway 9, Dillon Dam Road, Interstate 70 and Lusher Court.

To address that, the county, Frisco and the Colorado Department of Transportation might partner on expansion projects aimed at alleviating any added congestion.

“We need to find out if we can even develop anything on Lake Hill before doing some transportation improvement,” Davidson said. “We can’t make mistakes on something like this. I don’t think the people of Summit County would ever forgive us if we really screwed up an intersection because of a housing project.”

Officials in Frisco also have other irons in the fire, with 36 new workforce units on the way and other potential projects that could turn around faster than something as large as Lake Hill, which is expected to take at least a decade to complete.

The county government is involved in several other housing projects as well, and officials from both camps agreed it would be wise not to push all of their resources into Lake Hill at once.

“I think one of the reasons why maybe this project wouldn’t happen as quickly as what was originally thought is because there are other projects to look at, so it might just be a shift of priorities,” said Frisco community development director Joyce Allgaier.

Securing financing and rezoning the Lake Hill parcel under a planned unit development are also likely to be yearlong processes. Despite the urgency of Summit’s housing crunch, officials don’t want to rush those either.

“The county certainly has never undertaken a project of this magnitude before, so we’ve got certain things that we need to learn and more homework to do,” Davidson said. “We’re treating this development project like we’d treat anyone else’s, and we wouldn’t approve a project of this size without all of the ‘I’s’ dotted and ‘T’s’ crossed.”

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