Frisco, county officials try to unclog 20-year-old plan for workforce housing at Lake Hill
Water rights and infrastructure costs continue to stymie development
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct Summit County’s purchase of the Lake Hill parcel.
Plans for workforce housing on the Lake Hill property continued this week. Summit County commissioners and Frisco Town Council members met Tuesday to discuss water and sanitation infrastructure at the now 20-year-old project.
Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence called it the last big piece of land left for workforce housing in the county. Both governing bodies expressed a desire to supply the region with workforce housing units, but both were divided over how the burden would be split. Town representatives stressed Frisco’s limited water rights and a need for financial backing from the county, while county officials expressed a desire to avoid burdening taxpayers.
Both boards agreed to report back to their respective town and county staff members.
The proposed Lake Hill Project would bring 436 units — 300 multifamily units, 85 townhome units and 51 single-family units — to 1,000 local workers, although commissioners said they wanted to see those numbers raised.
“I feel like if we limited it to 436, I would be disappointed in that we were not trying to maximize this,” commissioner Lawrence said. “We’re no longer being good stewards of taxpayer dollars if we’re building single-family, standalone workforce housing homes.”
Commissioner Tamara Pogue agreed but with reservations. She said she understood the infrastructure limitations faced by the town, and the strain additional units would place on it, but the county cannot handle the full price of water and sewer upgrades.
“Utimately, it is cheaper for (the county) to build our own water facilities than it is to buy water from you guys, and we can add more density to this project,” Pogue said. “The problem, though, is that that delays the timeline for us and for this community and for folks that are desperately in need of housing.”
A water report conducted by Hendrix Wai Engineering Inc. states that the town is in need of acquiring more water rights. If the Lake Hill project was completed, the town would need to acquire more water supplies within 13 years, according to the report.
The report goes on to state the town currently lacks the water necessary to meet its predicted build-out population of 8,903.
“We have a problem, which is — if our town fills up — we don’t have enough water,” town councilor Andrew Aerenson said.
“Then we need to have a conversation about what’s fair in terms of the impact Lake Hill puts on Frisco,” Lawrence said.
Tetra Tech conducted an impact study in which it stated the costs for water and sewer upgrades. Frisco would need new pipes, a well, a pump station to move water and a possible storage tank to accommodate the Lake Hill Project, upgrades estimated to cost $4.4 million. An additional estimate of $3.3 million in tap fees would bring the total to $7.7 million.
Sanitation infrastructure, like water, would also need expansion. The Frisco Sanitation District would need $8 million of upgrades. The project’s impact study states Lake Hill’s proportional share would be $2.95 million. Including the cost of connecting Lake Hill, total costs could exceed $13.7 million.
The district has previously said it lacks the money to make the sanitation investments needed.
The Lake Hill Parcel sits outside Frisco Sanitation District’s boundary. And although the district had the capacity to serve the project as of last October, the possibility of future projects makes the district uncomfortable committing to the project, Summit County Manager Scott Vargo said.
Frisco first looked into acquiring the Lake Hill Property from the U.S. Forest Service in the summer of 2000 when Summit County’s population was 23,548 according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Since then many plans, studies and an act by the U.S. Congress in 2014 led to Summit County government purchasing the land for $1.75 million for the sole purpose of providing affordable housing for the local workforce.
More than 20 years after the project’s inception, the population of Summit County has risen to 31,055.
A group of county government members, local stakeholders and outside consultants created the Lake Hill Master Plan in 2017. It outlined design possibilities in light of the need for workforce housing. The plan stated the Ten Mile Basin — Frisco and Copper Mountain – needed 249 housing units to catch up to the minimum need in 2016, and 310 to keep up through 2020.
The county continued conversations with adjacent Homeowner Associations, the Summit Stage Transit Board and Frisco through 2022. Sewer and water service became sticking points in 2021.
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