Frisco Town Council discusses ways to address workforce housing issues
Most, if not all, of Summit County is working on solutions to find enough affordable housing for the local workforce. Frisco is no different, and town staff presented a report on the issue to Town Council during a work session Tuesday, Sept. 14.
Eva Henson, the town’s housing coordinator, explained that the report encompassed a full list of tools that are foundational for drafting the Frisco Strategic Housing Plan to focus on various projects and programs. Some workforce housing partnerships and projects mentioned in the report are already underway, such as the development of a .58-acre lot at 619 Granite St.
The lot is own by the Colorado Department of Transportation and was previously used as a mobile home park for CDOT employees. The town and CDOT have agreed to share costs to develop 80% construction drawings prior to deciding on whether to build the project. Studio Architecture was chosen as a designer earlier this year. The current project design is for 22 rental units, and staff estimates that the development would cost Frisco between $4.5 million and $5 million.
The meeting also touched on the Colorado Workforce Center located at 602 Galena St. The building was constructed in 1984 and is owned by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Sitting on .72 acres, the state is discussing a potential project or partnership opportunity with the town to use the site as affordable housing. An environmental assessment and topographic survey are scheduled to be completed in September.
Much of the discussion, however, revolved around town-owned properties that could possibly be developed for affordable housing. The half-acre Sabatini Lot, at 275 Granite St., is currently used for parking. Council has sought housing concepts in the past, and the town is considering selling the property with restrictions in place to guide what future development could happen on the lot.
“I was always weary of selling 275 Granite, but I’m more comfortable … hearing what we’ve heard, seeing what we’ve seen and knowing that we have something that’s a better lot and a better use for housing,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. “I could come around on the idea of selling the Sabatini Lot for the benefits that we could get out of it. … I definitely have a growing comfort level there.”
Three other properties under consideration — 113 Granite St., the First and Main Building at 100 E. Main St. and the alley between the two — all involve possible modifications to the Frisco Historic Park and surrounding areas. For instance, the .25-acre lot at 113 Granite St. could be workforce housing or possibly a Historic Park expansion that involves a small creative arts campus, or it could be a combination of the two. The alley could also be a park expansion or could serve as green space.
“The park’s energy is where it needs to be,” council member Melissa Sherburne said. “It’s kind of weird to have an offshoot. But there could be an opportunity, too, for maybe some sort of artists’ studio, artists in residence (or) something like that that plays off of the historic park. But I do not support expanding the park. We have the park and it has a beautiful perimeter. We don’t need more sort of empty, historic buildings. But if there’s a way to complement it like that and weave in the arts … (to) diversify the historic park a little bit that would be super cool.”
Council member Andy Held mentioned that he used to use one of the buildings for a workshop before it became part of the museum, and he supported the opportunity to assist an arts collective.
However, Town Council was less sure on what to do with the First and Main Building. Mortensen, who said he was part of the original group that helped council acquire the property, noted he is not comfortable with selling the building.
“If we sell that and it’s commercial, the nature and the feel and the character of the park is forever changed,” Mortensen said. “They’re going to maximize height (and) maximize use. … It’s going to cast a shadow, literally, over that park that I don’t feel comfortable with. That is a small, postage-stamp corner that will dictate the character of the community of this town for years to come.”
Discussions regarding the future of the property will be revisited at a later time.
After the work session, Summit County commissioners Tamara Pogue and Josh Blanchard and County Manager Scott Vargo visited with Town Council to talk about the long-discussed development of the Lake Hill property. The 45-acre parcel on the Dillon Dam Road is proposed to become a 436-unit housing development, with 300 multifamily units and 85 town houses for rent and ownership.
The commissioners came to the meeting to ask Town Council with help in providing support, particularly around water and rezoning. Held said they were willing to help but wanted to know more before signing documents. Pogue and Blanchard noted that there was a time factor, as they could receive state and federal funding before it sunsets in 2024 by demonstrating that the project is a collaborative effort from multiple jurisdictions.
Despite the hesitation, council expressed a commitment to negotiating a water agreement to keep the project moving forward.
“I don’t want to miss out on any of (those funds) locally that we could possibly get, especially since … in the past one of the big things hanging over this was, ‘We’ll never be able to afford the infrastructure,’” Mortensen said.
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