Silverthorne’s Smith Ranch workforce-housing project draws massive response from community
A team of builders, architects, landscapers, urban planners and town officials fielded all sorts of questions Thursday at Summit County’s North Branch Library, as they invited residents to learn more about a roughly $60 million to $80 million workforce-housing project that’s coming to northern Silverthorne.
There’s significant interest in the Smith Ranch project, displayed by the packed room at Thursday’s open-house forum and the 113 people who added their names to a sign-in sheet in the first hour of the event.
Councilwoman JoAnn Nadalin said it was one of the most well-attended open houses she’s ever seen for a town project, and one man on his way into the library described what it could mean for the town in the simplest of terms: “This is big.”
Inside the library, councilman Kevin McDonald explained the project is big, not necessarily because of the size of the production, but because it could help people of all income levels find the housing they need to stay here for years to come.
“I think it’s a natural progression to a healthy community,” he continued. “We’re enjoying a really good economy right now, just like the rest of the country. That has benefits, but it also has challenges — and one of the biggest challenges (here) is housing … Frankly, you can’t run a community like this without people who can afford to live here.”
The Smith Ranch property is divided into two distinct sections with 52 acres dedicated to residential plots and another 11.2 acres reserved for commercial development.
The town bought the property in 2008 and annexed it the following year. The economic downturn stalled the project at Smith Ranch for a while, until plans were revived in 2014.
In November 2016, the project got another boost as voters backed the 5A initiative to fund housing projects in Silverthorne. Shortly thereafter, the town put out a request for proposals.
The town has tagged Compass Homes Development to spearhead the residential development, and the local builder is no stranger to large-scale, workforce-housing projects in Summit County, having previously completed or won bids to develop workforce-housing projects in Silverthorne, Keystone and Breckenridge, just to name a few.
Tim Crane, of Compass Homes, estimates that workforce-housing projects account for about half of his business. It’s not the most profitable thing they do, he said, but it’s the most rewarding.
“I love it,” he said of taking on workforce-housing projects. “I suffer from the same thing everyone else does, a lack of available housing … and this is an opportunity to build a community that people want to live in.”
At this point, Compass Homes is looking to erect just over 200 units, all of which will be owner-occupied by people who work at least 32 hours per week in Summit County.
At this point, designs are only conceptual, and they could change over the coming weeks, though no one expects the alterations to be too dramatic.
While they are still preliminary, one of the artist renderings presented Thursday showed a mix of single-family units, townhomes, duplexes and triplexes on the Smith Ranch property that breaks down like this:
• 80 townhomes at 800-1,200 square feet each with optional garages.
• 56 paired homes at 1,200-1,400 square feet with either an alleyway or front-loading garage.
• 54 single-family homes at 1,200-1,600 square feet with either alley or front-loading garages.
• 16 upslope homes with 1,400-1,800 square feet with front-loading garages.
All of the units will be deed-restricted, and town officials said the restrictions — things like caps on buyers’ incomes and sales prices, employment requirements and other measures designed to keep prices down and local workers in the units — will mirror others in the county.
The targeted-price range is 80-120 percent of the area median income, commonly abbreviated AMI. Generally speaking, that would put the cheapest homes at Smith Ranch in the low-200,000s and the most expensive just shy of half a million.
If everything goes according to plan, ground will break on the residential development this spring and construction on the first homes could begin there as early as next summer.
At the open house, individuals posed questions about the deed restrictions, prices and connectivity. Others asked about impacts on wildlife, neighborhood density and nearby trails. The concern voiced most often hinged on traffic congestion in the area, specifically what will happen at Ruby Ranch Road and Colorado 9, a highly traveled intersection along the highway.
Assistant town manager Mark Leidal said the town has been working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which manages that stretch of asphalt, to answer those questions.
He explained that CDOT has a strict formula for deciding where to put traffic signals, and the residential and commercial portions of the Smith Ranch development, by themselves, won’t be enough to trigger a signal light at the intersection. However, with the commercial and residential pieces of Smith Ranch combined, that will be enough, Leidal said, adding that he expects CDOT to install a signal light at the intersection at some point but could not say when that might happen.
For more about Smith Ranch, go to Silverthorne.org and click on the “Community Development” tab under the “Town Services” drop-down menu.
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