Employee housing development plan is in limbo after developer’s lawyer disputes county decision
A potential commercial or industrial development with employee housing that could bring more than 20 employee housing units to Breckenridge was on the table, but a decision on the development plan was not made at the Summit Board of County Commissioners regular session Tuesday, Sept. 13. Now, a representative for the development says the plan’s future may be in doubt.
The project in question would be located near Broken Compass Brewing off of Airport Road on the way to Breckenridge and could provide up to 30 housing units.
“It’s a very important (planned unit development) based on what it provides,” said Danny Teodoru, the lawyer who represented the development plan’s applicant.
Teodoru said the location, the affordability and the crucial need for more housing in the county made this employee housing project important to pass.
“I think that everyone is in support of employee housing,” Deputy County Attorney Keely Ambrose said.
However she added that there were complications with off-site employee housing rates if employees cannot be found to fill the units.
The proposal began in January of this year at a meeting with the Upper Blue Planning Commission. Originally, the housing site was only supposed to have 18 units of employee housing, but the applicant wanted to add more, increasing the number of units to 30.
From that meeting, the commission recommended the county eliminate the rule that there be a ratio of commercial square footage to residential square footage to create more flexibility for future development.
However, county rules say an area median income restriction is still necessary for anyone who does not qualify for employee housing but still wants to live there.
In addition, the planned development would also change from a commercial and industrial development to an affordable housing and residential development. The applicant asked for the density restriction to be eliminated.
County officials are concerned this would not work out. If employees are not found to fill the employee housing units, then the planned development becomes more of an affordable living area than an employee housing area, according to the staff report. This is why an area median income restriction is necessary — to prevent a use other than what was planned in the original zoning documents.
Simply put, it discourages people who aren’t employees from moving in, officials said.
Teodoru proposed a restriction of 120% of area median income for non-employees.
However, Ambrose pointed out that the board voted over the summer to allow a maximum of only a 110% area median income for affordable housing.
The difference between the two costs may not seem like much, but rent goes up $500 per month between 100% AMI and 120% AMI.
The affordability aspect of yearly income between the two also has a difference of $15,000.
Units that are at 100% area median income are affordable to those who make about $73,000 a year, and 120% area median income units are affordable to someone who makes nearly $88,000 per year, according to Summit Combined Housing Authority data for 2022 — and those calculations are only for a one bedroom apartment.
The applicant also suggested the 120% income rate instead of a 100% or 110% income rate because of the increased cost of construction, a trend many developers have seen in the past few years, according to Lindsay Hirsh, senior planner for Summit County government.
David Rossi, the communications director for Summit County government, said this modification brings up a problem much bigger than additional employee housing units in Breckenridge: land use.
Rossi said this application brings to light the issue of how best to use land in Summit County and what kind of density to put within those land constraints.
Teodoru was willing to fight, however.
“We’re actually encouraging the provision of employee housing, with every business that gets built,” Tedoru said. “What do businesses look for now? They look for the ability to have employees live in this county. It’s an absolute issue. So what we want to do is have something where businesses can come in and say: I can build there, and I can build employee housing.”
At the end of the meeting, the modification was not approved, and the issue was tabled to another meeting in October.
“To be frank, I don’t know that we’re going to move forward with the application,” Teodoru said after the commissioners voted to extend the decision making process. “There’s a chance that we’re probably not going to.”
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