Keystone-area land swap could mean more affordable housing
February 20, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Although the U.S. Forest Service just started a formal evaluation of the Snake River land exchange, one of the key federal parcels in the swap may figure into local affordable housing.
About five acres of the 35-acre Claimjumper parcel near Airport Road in Breckenridge could be used to expand the existing Pinewood Village neighborhood.
The town has pinned a $1.75 million price tag on the 5-acre portion of the Claimjumper parcel with development potential, according to town manager Tim Gagen. As part of the land trade, Breckenridge will offer some cash for the Claimjumper parcel.
The town has asked the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) if they want to partner on the deal, according to county manager Gary Martinez. The county’s role could be to help with the acquisition, Gagen said.
The Claimjumper tract was the site of a controversial cleanup last summer, when the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency joined forces to remove tons of lead-tainted mining waste from the property. Former Forest Service District Ranger Rick Newton said the cleanup wasn’t directly tied to the land trade, but the parcel has since been included in the proposed deal.
At a BOCC work session this week, county commissioners discussed whether they want to use some affordable housing funds to buy into the project. Without making a final decision to commit funds, the BOCC directed staff to explore a potential partnership.
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The County has collected about $300,000 from Measure 5A revenues, combined from sales tax and development impact fees. Some of the money will go toward a down payment assistance program administered by the Summit Combined Housing Authority.
But putting some of the money toward an on-the-ground project like the Pinewood Village expansion is another option. Commissioner Thomas Davidson said the county also has other funds available to acquire land for public purposes.
Planning for land still owned by the Forest Service may seem like putting the cart in front of the horse to some observers, especially since the agency claims the trade is far from a done deal.
But the commissioners’ discussion had a when, not-if tone, lending some credence to the idea in a recent letter to the Summit Daily News that the Forest Service public process is mainly for show.
The heart of the trade is in the Snake River Basin, where developer Gary Miller wants to trade a private parcel in Chihuahua Gulch for some slopeside real estate near the base of the Keystone Gondola. The Claimjumper parcel, along with another piece of federal land near Breckenridge’s Cucumber Gulch, have been added into the mix to bring the deal into line with federal land swap regulations.
According to those guidelines, the value of land being traded must be within 25 percent. Commissioners said the up-front planning helps the public understand how the parcels in the trade might be used.
“You have to stand up at the beginning of a land trade,” said County Commissioner Tom Long. Getting a handle on the financial implications is something the county has done in previous land swaps with the feds, Long said.
The county’s financial role would be small, but the agreement could include assurances that some of the new housing would be available for county workers.
There was some question as to the timing of the county’s participation.
“Will they be able to do what they want to do without us?” asked Commissioner Bob French.
“Frankly, the county doesn’t have any other projects going,” answered assistant county manager Steve Hill. Collaborating with Breckenridge on the Claimjumper deal could be good model for other partnerships in the future, Hill said.