Staying in Summit presents senior housing development to county officials |

Staying in Summit presents senior housing development to county officials

It’s unclear if the project will move forward as county officials say they are currently focused on workforce housing needs.

Since it was formed in 2018, local nonprofit Staying in Summit has been focused on advocating and creating plans for a senior housing development in Summit County.

After assembling data, identifying potential parcels of land and working with two different developers, the organization presented its potential development to the Summit Board of County Commissioners during its work session meeting on Tuesday, June 1. But local officials are laser-focused on workforce housing needs, and it’s unclear whether this project will come to fruition.

During the meeting, representatives from Staying in Summit identified that there was a real need for senior housing in Summit County, which currently has no senior housing of any kind.

“Summit County is one of the few counties in all of Colorado that does not have anything for seniors if they want to downsize or if they need assisted living or memory care, and there’s been a number of people who could have stayed here … but their loved ones had to move them either down to Denver or Boulder, or to Eagle (County). … That’s not just right around the corner,” said President of Staying in Summit Andy Searls.

This isn’t the first time Staying in Summit has discussed a development with the board. Early last year, the group was hoping the Fiester Preserve would become the future home of senior housing, but the project received pushback from neighboring communities such as Bill’s Ranch.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Searls’ team pointed out that Summit County’s older population is quickly growing, and that this population makes up a portion of the county’s workforce. Without senior housing, older populations are forced to move out of the area, which can place a burden on families.

Searls and her team stated that they wanted to build a multigenerational development that has approximately 60 units altogether, if not more. Though nothing is set in stone, these 60 units would be divided up into workforce housing, independent living for seniors, memory-care units and assisted living units.

Searls said this project falls right in line with what the county had originally expected out of a development from Staying in Summit. Searls said county officials previously told her and her team that a development that combines workforce housing and senior housing together is more likely to gain traction.

During the meeting, representatives from Staying in Summit identified how they’d fund the project, which includes contributions from investors and/or donations, developer equity, and loans from a bank or agency.

The presentation ended with a request for the county to designate two parcels of land in the County Commons, a total of 19 acres. One of these parcels is near the Fiester Preserve property.

Summit County Manager Scott Vargo said that last year key stakeholder groups, including Bill’s Ranch and Staying in Summit, met with the county and came to a consensus that this parcel of land was most preferred if development was to happen.

The executive summary for the presentation stated this location “allows for preservation of the existing recreational corridor and buffer for the residential neighborhood” and that it’s “near the existing senior center and recreational amenities,” such as the Summit County Community and Senior Center and the Frisco branch of the Summit County Library. It’d also be near St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.

When this concept was presented to the board, County Commissioners Elisabeth Lawrence and Tamara Pogue both noted that senior housing had been a priority, but that workforce housing was currently top of mind.

“I think we probably need to do a better job of expressing the true housing emergency that we are in right now related to our workforce,” Lawrence said. “It is so different than even six months ago, and that’s not at all to diminish senior housing or any other type of housing in Summit County. We’re just in a brand new emergency that has caught all of us off guard, all of the towns and us, and it’s a crisis like none other currently.”

Pogue said she’d like the group to focus on regional efforts, and how local towns and surrounding counties can work together to address the various needs. In its presentation, Staying in Summit noted that Glenwood Springs, Eagle County and Steamboat Springs all had senior housing.

“I do think increasingly we’re going to see regional conversations around some of this infrastructure,” Pogue said. “Summit County simply does not have the resources to build out of the infrastructure we need, whether we’re talking about assisted living, aging housing, sober living facilities, simple workforce housing. The resources just simply do not exist for all of these projects if Summit County is going to go it alone.

“So what I’m trying to tease out is where’s the regional focus in this conversation? How do we bring a little bit more of that to the project to see what else we might be able to make feasible? I mean I’m not sure if you’ve been listening to the county’s housing conversation so far, but we have 13 parcels. That’s it. That’s all we have left that we can build off from a housing perspective. One of those parcels is 0.2 acres.”

The meeting concluded with the commissioners agreeing to discuss the project internally and give Vargo feedback to pass along to the representatives of Staying in Summit.

Searls said the response wasn’t exactly what she wanted to hear.

“I was a little disappointed in the respect that they were so focused on the big problem, which is a big problem — workforce housing — but this workforce housing problem is not something that just developed yesterday. It’s been there for a long time,” Searls said.

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