Frisco cabins to go out in blaze of glory
summit daily news
FRISCO ” Caroline Foley clears toys from the couch in her tiny living room as she expresses regret about having to move from her Frisco cabin. The cabin, together with the six other aging structures at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Summit Boulevard in Frisco, are slated for demolition this month.
Area firefighters will use the cabins for training purposed for three days in May, igniting and extinguishing fires and marking the final chapter in the history of one of the town’s oldest housing developments.
Foley and her two-year-old son, Honori, have shared the 384-square-foot home for the past year. A private music teacher and accompanist at Summit High School, she says she’s worried about finding another place within her price range.
“This is the only thing affordable in the county,” she said. “For single moms, without getting help from the government, it’s almost impossible to find a one bedroom.”
A seven-year resident of Summit County, Foley pays $550 a month, including utilities, to live in the postage-stamp sized dwelling. Without her homey furniture and personal decorative touches, one could imagine the cabin in a primitive summer camp or on a remote lake. The fireplace doesn’t work and the heater has had its problems, but Foley says the location makes it all worth it.
“It’s tough,” she said. “I love Frisco. Honori loves it, because we walk to the park. It’s been the affordable housing in Frisco.”
According to the county assessors office, the seven cabins were built in 1955. Although there’s an unsubstantiated rumor they were relocated from an unspecified military base, the Frisco Historical Society has no information on their provenance. All seven are occupied, and at least one resident has lived there for more than a decade.
Local developers Tom Silengo and Larry Feldman bought the .88-acre parcel and its cabins in March 2005 for a little more than $1.5 million. The previous owner had acquired the property in 1994 for $305,000, but was never able to move forward with development.
No plans have yet been filed with the town planning department for the parcel, which is zoned for mixed-use construction, but co-owner Feldman said he hopes to get approval to build 14 two- and three-bedroom condominiums on the site. If his company decides to include any commercial component in the development, it will be low intensity, he added.
Both Silengo and Feldman have been involved in affordable housing projects in the past. With an increasing percentage of Frisco housing owned by second home-owners, Feldman said he’s acutely aware of the current crunch for the town’s middle and lower-income residents.
“We regret we’ve taken seven low income housing units out of the market,” he said. Silengo agreed, but said, although he never had any trouble finding renters, the low quality of the buildings and the cost of cabin maintenance became too much. One cabin still has an outhouse standing in its yard.
“We made an effort, but it’s been a lot of trouble to keep them habitable,” Silengo said. “It’s a sad story in our town that there’s such a demand for substandard housing.”
Lake Dillon Fire Authority public affairs coordinator Rachel Hanson lived in one of the cabins for three or four months when she first arrived in Summit County in 1987.
“It was mountain living,” she said. “It had its problems ” the water and the power went out ” but it was great.” Hanson still has snapshots of herself from 1987, standing in front of a cabin that appeared in much better repair than it looks today.
Despite her affection for the cabins, Hanson said she’s watched them deteriorate as the land around them has been developed.
“I’m surprised they haven’t been torn down before now,” she said.
The Summit Fire Authority plans to use the cabins to give local firefighters experience in structure fires. Training exercises at the site are scheduled for May 9, May 11 and May 13, if weather permits. Because of the close proximity to the Frisco Bay Townhomes, no exercises will occur if the ambient wind velocity is greater than 10 miles per hour.
“We’ll make sure it’s a safe environment for everybody,” Hanson said.
The fire authority will insure all utilities are turned off and remove appliances and toxic materials, such as carpet foam, from the cabins before any fires are set, Training Captain Paul Kuhn said. Once the firefighters are done with the structures, the owners will raze the foundations.
Foley said she wishes she had the money to move her cabin to another site. She understands why the owners are tearing it down, but she’s still anxious about the future for her and her son.
“I can barely afford a $90,000 condo,” she said. “If I could, I would stay here forever.”
Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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