Community members express concern about planned redevelopment of 2 Silverthorne mobile home parks
About 68 individuals, or roughly 15 families, will be forced to relocate in June
It’s been nearly five months since Riverthorne LLC bought land at 772 and 780 Blue River Parkway, home of the Cottonwood Court and D&D mobile home parks in Silverthorne. As it continues moving forward with its high-density residential development, the developer of the project held a community meeting Tuesday, Jan. 25, to discuss how residents at the mobile home parks would be impacted.
The meeting kicked off with a short presentation about the land. According to the presentation, the site is just under 2 acres and sits along Colorado Highway 9 across from Target. Though specifics for the project are largely still up in the air, the site could hold 50 units that are likely to sell anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million.
Leading the discussion was John Niemi, founder and CEO of developer The Aidan Group, which invested in the property with other partners, creating Riverthorne. Riverthorne purchased the property for $3.5 million Sept. 3, 2021.
During the meeting, Niemi repeatedly said it was a “privilege” to develop in rural mountain communities, and his intention was not to displace any residents. Niemi encouraged community members to speak up and voice their concerns.
On the virtual call were about 32 attendees, most of whom expressed concern for the residents living in these complexes. One such individual was Dillon resident Diana Luellen.
“The issue in this county is the fact that there are very few places that folks can go that have reasonable rent or reasonable purchase cost, and even if a nice round sum is offered to folks, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to find a place to rent or to buy,” Luellen said.
Brianne Snow, executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, also spoke in support of the residents. She said she was “devastated” by what’s happening.
“There is no workforce housing in this community,” Snow said. “We work really hard to create workforce housing, and we’re literally watching it being torn down, and it’s just really heartbreaking because we’re going to lose all those folks. There’s just nowhere for them to go.”
Snow said that while this is “too complex of a problem” for Niemi on his own to fix, “it’s still awful to witness.” She also pointed out that many multigenerational families live in these homes, meaning the entire family unit lives together. This makes it even more difficult to relocate.
To these comments, Niemi said he was surprised that it didn’t appear residents had been informed that the intent was to sell the property, but nonetheless, he wanted to brainstorm and collaborate with community members on how he could help the residents impacted.
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that I, as the current owner, want to do the right thing, and while I don’t at all control the housing situation in all of Summit County, I can certainly be part of helping solve it in certain ways,” Niemi said.
Legally, Niemi does not have an obligation to compensate residents, but he said he does have a moral responsibility to help them. He said his intentions were to help residents, and while he’s open to writing checks, he’d like to instead help them find alternative places to live. Even so, Snow said the action taken thus far hasn’t been sufficient.
“I don’t disbelieve it,” Snow said. “… I’m not hearing (that) these residents feel very supported, or they understand what is going to happen to them. And so while I don’t understand everyone’s motives, I do know that there is a lot of fear and confusion for these particular folks, and they don’t know what’s going to happen to them next.”
Residents have been given until June 2 to relocate, and this quickly approaching deadline — without any concrete details of compensation or other potential aid — was a concern brought up by a few other community members, too. Between the two complexes, about 68 individuals, or roughly 15 families, will be forced to relocate.
“Hearing the number of local families that are potentially going to be displaced, I don’t know how we’ve gotten so far in this process without a plan for how to find a new home for these folks,” Frisco resident Kate Hudnut said.
Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrants, also spoke in favor of coming up with some kind of compensation sooner rather than later.
“In the short-term, … these people are losing their homes. You’re going to demolish them, and some of them … are owned by the people,” Bakken said. “They’re going to lose their homes and their investment. You have the law on your side 100% here. It advantages you; it disadvantages them.”
Niemi continued to empathize with those who spoke in support of the residents and expressed his interest in helping. In a follow-up call, Niemi said he and his team have identified a possible solution, and they have passed this along to the pro bono attorney representing the residents. Niemi declined to say what kind of financial compensation was offered or what kind of framework it was based on.
With about four months left before the June 2 deadline, Niemi said his goal is to have a solution identified in the next two weeks, especially since many community members and residents feel anxious about what’s to come.
“I heard it loud and clear that the uncertainty is creating uneasiness, and I don’t want to put anyone in that position,” he said.
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