Developer hopes to help Silverthorne mobile home park residents transition
Town working to facilitate conversations with developer, residents and local nonprofits
Not long after Blue River GP LLC purchased the land at 772 and 780 Blue River Parkway, home of the Cottonwood Court and D&D mobile home parks, the properties were combined into one and resold to Riverthorne LLC.
Blue River GP purchased them for just under $2.5 million on June 2. John Niemi, founder and CEO of developer the Aidan Group, invested in the property with other partners, creating Riverthorne, which purchased the property for $3.5 million on Sept. 3.
Niemi said the original owner of the property notified residents in June 2019 that they were planning to sell the land for development.
Niemi said the owner before him (Blue River GP) also notified residents in June that they were planning on developing the site, giving a year of notice before folks had to vacate the property. When the property was listed again, Niemi said residents were given 90-days notice in the event they wanted to come together or find an outside resource to purchase the property themselves.
“We waited out that notice just to make sure none of the residents were interested in doing that, and then we closed after that,” Niemi said. “They were all notified over the summer, and then no one spoke up, so we ended up buying the property after that.”
The notice is required following state legislation passed last year to protect the rights of mobile home park residents.
Peter Bakken, executive director of Mountain Dreamers, said since the legislation is so new, his organization is still learning about it. He said the residents were also not fully aware of the new law during the 90-day period, and neither was his organization, which advocates for immigrants.
Bakken said notices were sent, but that most of them were in English. That was problematic, he said, because many of the residents in the parks don’t speak English. One of the more recent notices did come in Spanish, he said.
Even if the residents had known about the law, Bakken said they likely would not have been able to get enough funding to purchase the property. In working with state organizations focused on mobile home parks, he said he learned that parks typically need to have 30 units or more for this to be a possibility. He said there are more regulations being written at the state level that aim to outline how the process is supposed to work.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to maintain that neighborhood as their residence, as a workforce housing neighborhood for this community instead of bulldozing,” Bakken said. “I understand that’s probably unlikely to happen, and so our goal is to get the best possible outcome for the residents. They really do stand to take an immense hit.”
Niemi said he and those involved with the site’s development want to help as best they can. He also said that after seeing the public comments made at the Oct. 27 Silverthorne Town Council meeting, he’s had connections in Summit County reach out to Mountain Dreamers.
“They’re our residents, and we have a fund set up to help them,” Niemi said. “… It’s the right thing to do, and they deserve it.”
Silverthorne Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist said the town has been working to try to facilitate conversations between the residents, developer, the Summit Combined Housing Authority and the Family & Intercultural Resource Center to find the best solution. She said the town will need more information about the developer’s plans before it has a good idea of how it can help.
“These are Silverthorne residents,” Sandquist said. “We care about them. We don’t want them to have to leave the community, and we want them to stay.”
Niemi said plans for a residential project on the site will go to the town next week and that it’s not anything different than what is currently allowed in the area by the town’s zoning. He also said he would never make residents pay for the demolition of their own homes, something Bakken had suggested was a possibility in the Town Council meeting.
“I am 100% committed to helping each and every one of the residents,” Niemi said. “I know the town wants to help them. We want to help them, and we want to do things the right way. … We’re going to be here to help the folks all day long.”
Bakken said his organization isn’t necessarily anti-development or trying to stop this particular development; rather, the nonprofit is looking to stand up for those who live in the mobile home parks.
“Working families in this community have been getting crushed for a number of years, and it’s just gotten kind of extreme,” Bakken said.
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