Dillon Town Council questions County Road 51 housing project after Forest Service says it won’t apply for annexation

A rendering of a proposed workforce housing development on U.S. Forest Service land outside of Dillon. Dillon Town Council learned that it won’t have the option to annex the land into town.
Norris Design/Courtesy rendering

A workforce housing project currently in the works for Summit County Road 51 likely won’t be annexed into the town of Dillon, and Town Council is now wondering why it should participate in the development.

Town Planner Ned West told council at a work session Tuesday, March 15, that the U.S. Forest Service will not apply for the annexation of the land.

“What’s in it for us now?” council member Jen Barchers asked. “Why would we be a part of this?”

The project involves an 11-acre site currently used by the Forest Service for housing, a maintenance shop and storage that would be leased to Summit County. The plan, which has been discussed for years, is to potentially develop 177 units that are a mix of studio and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The added density would require an overhaul of the streets, including two roundabouts in the area, one at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Lake Dillon Drive and a smaller one to service Evergreen Road and Piney Acres Circle.

Additionally, the Forest Service is seeking 25 seasonal beds, between two and five two- to three-bedroom units, and an approximately half-acre site with about a 5,000-square-foot storage and maintenance building. Because the Forest Service can’t accept cash, these aspects and others for the lease would have to be in-kind contributions.

Council member Kyle Hendricks said he wouldn’t support the project if it included only the smaller roundabout. Mayor Carolyn Skowyra expressed disappointment in losing the potential of additional residents, though she noted they would still help the tax base by shopping locally.

“Of course I want to contribute and have … affordable, attainable housing for our workforce, but one of the big, shiny parts of this is that we annex it to give us some say over the project and that we would add 300 people,” Skowyra said. “… I’m still just as excited about it, but in a different way than Dillon growing.”

Skowyra explained that an official boost in population increases the voter base and makes it easier to entice developers for projects in the town core.

Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz said the project can’t get off the ground without Dillon’s water and sewer, so participation from the town is necessary.

“Right now, the workforce housing is in a dire situation,” Dietz said. “There isn’t the workforce needed for business as is, let alone growth of the town core. The project has a lot of upside for the town and the county overall.”

Though the Forest Service won’t apply for the annexing of the site, a workaround could be drafted to accomplish some of the same goals. Town Attorney Nick Cotton-Baez explained that a “ceremonial annexation” would allow the town more in-kind contributions from water and sewer raters.

Adam Bianchi, district ranger for the Dillon Ranger District, said a ceremonial annexation process that Cotton-Baez described is common for the Forest Service, especially with ski areas.

“We do it all the time,” Bianchi said. “We follow local town and county laws and regulations; it’s just that we’re never going to give away that right … to that piece of property.”

The deadline to execute a lease is Oct. 1, 2023, when Section 8623 of the 2018 Farm Bill sunsets. The bill expanded the Forest Service as a leasing authority and inspired the housing project.

Much of the project is still in flux and will be discussed in additional meetings. The site needs to be appraised, and the Town Council needs to figure out a timeline, what sort of in-kind contributions would be appropriate and the target area median income. Council also needs to further define the elements of the lease as well as an intergovernmental agreement with the county.

“We are benefiting the community,” council member Renee Imamura said. “We need affordable housing. There’s negotiations to be had, but absolutely I’m 100% for this. I wouldn’t want to backpedal and not be a part of this.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.