Dillon, Summit County make headway on workforce housing project with US Forest Service

The proposed site for a new workforce housing development on U.S. Forest Service land just outside of Dillon.
Courtesy town of Dillon

DILLON — Officials are taking steps forward on a significant new workforce housing project that could bring hundreds of affordable units to the area.

Dillon and Summit County officials are in talks to develop a new workforce housing project in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, which would lease the land through a new process outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill. Officials are hoping that the development would help to fill gaps in the county’s rental market.

“We’re really excited about the project, to being able to bring in more rental product into the county and across various (area median income) rental levels,” said Jason Dietz, Summit County housing director. “We’re really looking for the project to be a place where people want to live, connected to the forest and the existing trail systems out there and to the town core.”

The 9-acre parcel is on Forest Service property just outside of Dillon Valley off Forest Canyon Road and Summit County Road 51. Concepts for the new development are still in the early stages, but officials said they’re likely looking at a range of 120-300 mixed units that would serve a “minimum of several hundred people.” The project also would provide continued workforce housing for Forest Service employees.

While the development is in its relative infancy, officials are expecting the project to pick up speed in 2021. Dillon Town Manager Nathan Johnson said they expect to have firms contracted to put together land use and density plans next year, along with designs for a new roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6, Lake Dillon Drive and Evergreen Road, a necessity to serve the increase in housing in the area.

A full build-out is still years away, but officials are hopeful the project can serve as a proving ground for local government partnerships with the Forest Service as municipalities begin to experiment with the concept.

A formal agreement with the Forest Service hasn’t been put in place, but officials said it would come in the form of a long-term lease agreement, and Dillon likely would annex the property into town limits.

“As far as we know, this is going to be one of the first projects, if not the first project, that the Forest Service is partnering with a local municipality on,” Johnson said. “So we’re trying to make sure all of our t’s are crossed to the point everything goes smoothly, and this can be used as a model for other entities across the country.”

Dietz said there’s a clear need for more workforce housing in the community. By 2023, there is estimated to be a gap of 2,600 rental units across all incomes in the county, according to the 2019 Summit County Housing Needs report. The Forest Service project would help put a dent into the coming needs.

“We’re working to fill some of those gaps within that time frame,” Dietz said. “… We will be reaching out to the community for feedback, and we don’t have a final land plan yet. But we’re looking to cover a variety of rental gaps. With the housing crisis, there’s no one silver bullet or quick fix. It’s a lot of small incremental improvements to help solve that issue.”

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