Keystone land debate centers on workforce housing

Summit's Board of County Commissioners held a special public hearing on Monday, May 9, to continue discussions with local developer Tim Crane on an agreement for amending the zoning restrictions in Keystone. The commissioners, in this file photo (from left to right), Dan Gibbs, Thomas Davidson and Karn Stiegelmeier, unanimously voted to offer Crane a minor amendment concerning The Alders parcel as an initial "good-faith measure."
Kevin Fixler / |

The development agreement between Summit County government and a local homebuilder for residential construction in Keystone is nearing completion.

The Summit Board of County Commissioners held a special public hearing Monday, May 9 at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge as the continuation of a meeting with Tim Crane of Summit Homes Construction from two weeks prior. The two began discussion in November over changing the zoning regulations within Keystone, so Crane can develop two pieces of land he owns there — Brown’s Cabin and The Alders.

In order to do so, though, Crane first needs the county to agree to amend the Keystone PUD, which stands for permitted uses and development and dates back to 1995. Essentially, the document was written to require the then-resort-owned property to be developed to certain specifications.

In particular, Brown’s Cabin, an approximately 4.35-acre tract just south of U.S. Highway 6 and west of Keystone Resort’s Montezuma Parking Lot, was intended for up to 100 units of workforce housing. However, Crane prefers to put up to 33 market-rate units there. Building market-rate units on The Alders, an adjacent 18-acre plot, also comes with it a requirement to build workforce housing at a rate of a portion per home erected.

Crane and the county have now identified a 10-acre land parcel within Vail Resorts, Inc.’s Wintergreen Subdivision in Keystone as a potential location … that Vail Resorts must transfer to the county.

While the county does not own these properties, it does hold the decision-making power for what may be developed on them and prefers to not lose the opportunity at affordable workforce housing on Brown’s. So in trade for these requested adjustments in order to build market-rate units there, Crane is offering to build deed-restricted workforce housing, but elsewhere within the Snake River Basin and as a part of private-public collaboration with the county. If by the end, all parameters are not met, Crane will pay the county an in-lieu fee of $9 per square-foot of units built on the Brown’s Cabin property.

The voluminous and intricate details are still being ironed out, and the next public meeting to finalize this development agreement is already set for the afternoon of Tuesday, May 24. Attorneys for both the county and Summit Homes have been in continuous dialogue on the matter in order for Crane to continue building, so the major Keystone PUD amendment cannot yet be finalized. But the county provided him a minor amendment yesterday regarding The Alders as a “good-faith measure” as the two proceed toward concluding the negotiations.

Crane and the county are otherwise not far off from consummating this deal, which already results in a prerequisite of at least 11 workforce beds in the area, and the two previously consented that six two-bedroom town homes on Brown’s Cabin near these projected market-rate units would be suitable.

After yesterday’s meeting, however, there is a chance that no workforce units will land on Brown’s whatsoever, and instead, those will be transferred to another plot that would be one of those last details to be finalized as part of this PUD amendment. In that case, Crane could possibly build another one or two market-rate homes there or maybe an amenity for all residents like a hot tub room.

“There’s nothing sacred to me about where they actually land,” said Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, “as long as they land in the Snake River Basin.”

Aside from a few other public benefits he’s offering, Crane suggested two weeks ago to utilize an approximately 2-acre piece of county-owned land in the Dillon Valley, at the site of an old church on Little Beaver Trail next to the gas station, for 19 workforce units. That’s in addition to the six workforce town homes he would already be required to build.

That conversation has now been moved along further, and the development agreement would now read that Crane would build no fewer than 25 workforce units — their location still to be decided — plus the six town homes.

Crane and the county have now identified a 10-acre land parcel within Vail Resorts, Inc.’s Wintergreen Subdivision in Keystone as a potential location, and an initial site plan could see 54 units, or perhaps more, units (single-car garage, two-bedroom duplexes and triplexes) there at an average price of 100 AMI, or area median income.

As it is known, Tract A (or Parcel D, depending on where you look) of Wintergreen is, according to this same Keystone PUD, land that Vail Resorts must transfer to the county. While the two may ultimately settle on an entirely different land parcel for plotting out where Crane’s workforce housing requirements as part of this larger agreement will be met, the county is presently in the process of filing the necessary paperwork with Vail Resorts to take official possession of the land, which has 8 buildable acres.

“My feeling is if we can settle on the site,” Crane told the board Monday, “we can move quickly on finalizing the development agreement. We just have to put a stake in the ground and make something work out.”

The development of residences on Brown’s Cabin has been in the works for more than two decades. This approaching agreement pushes that possibility much closer to reality and is a contract the county continues to pursue in a quest for more workforce housing, even if it takes just a little bit longer.

“I think that there’s a lot of potential in this,” said Commissioner Thomas Davidson, “so I’m very interested in seeing this go down that line. This zoning language and these requirements are dated. This applicant is not the developer of the resort, so in my mind, this is all very, very different. I just want to make sure that we do it right and not fast. And sometimes those don’t go together.”

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