Smith Ranch workforce housing apartment project moves forward in Silverthorne

Construction of 135 income-capped apartments likely to begin this summer

The Smith Ranch neighborhood in Silverthorne is pictured Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.
Ashley Low/Summit Daily News archive

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the income range requirements for the Smith Ranch Apartments.

Silverthorne Town Council is continuing its support for an affordable housing project that would bring 135 apartments for Summit County employees to the town. 

Led by developer Gorman and Co., the project — known as the Smith Ranch Apartments — is expected to provide units to employees and residents in the county making between 30% and 120% of the area median income. For an individual in 2022, that translates to an income range of $21,990 to $87,960.

The plan hit a major milestone last month when Gorman, in partnership with the town, received tax credits which it said would pay for the construction of apartments capped for those making between 30% and 60% of the area median income.

“This is great news because these are very competitive funding sources that end up paying for about half of the development cost for the project, which means we get to take that funding to keep rent at affordable levels, below 60% of area median income,” Gorman & Co. President Kimball Crangle said at the time. 

During a Dec. 14 meeting, Silverthorne’s council heard updates on the site plans for the project, which was first reported to break ground this spring but will now likely do so in early summer, according to Lauren Schevetz, director of development for Gorman’s Colorado office.

While the plan received unanimous support earlier that week from the town’s planning commission, it will still need a majority of council members to vote in favor of it once a more refined design comes before them. 

But council members appeared ready to support the project after several spoke positively about the plans during the Dec. 14 meeting.

“I see the potential in this project, and I know everybody in this community and this county is very excited about it,” said councilmember Kelly Baldwin. 

Still, some key design aspects will need to be hashed out before council members are ready to give Gorman the final green light. 

Set to be built in the Smith Ranch neighborhood, a workforce housing-designated property in the town’s northwest, the 135 apartments will be split into three standalone buildings capped at 38 feet — though most of the buildings’ roofs would be several feet below that.

Gorman is eyeing construction in a “mostly flat and vacant area,” said Lena Lesmes, Silverthorn’s housing manager. But it will still have to comply with several town code stipulations, among them a minimum requirement for trees and shrubs. 

According to town code, the area would need to have at least 112 trees and 187 shrubs, Lesmes said. Gorman’s plans include 38 trees and 222 shrubs for the area, “far below what’s required,” she said. 

An exemption in the town’s code allows developers to propose “alternative methods for landscaping a site” to “avoid landscaping that is inconsistent with the natural environment.” Gorman is pursuing such an exemption and Lesmes noted the immediate area does not have native trees and shrubs. But the developer will likely still need to increase the greenery, Lesmes said. 

Other issues that Gorman will likely have to revisit include ensuring the property will have adequate snow storage as well as possible aesthetic updates to the outside of the buildings. 

Lindsay Newman, senior associate for Norris Design — which is working with Gorman on the project — said updated plans for the site include mountable curves to parking areas for easier snow storage. She added: “During big snow storms, we plan to contract somebody.”

As the project moves forward, Newman said a recent open house for the site showed “there’s a great demand for this, and we’re really excited to be filling that need.”

Silverthorne has invested a cash subsidy of just under $1.63 million, about $25,000 per unit, into the project along with $869,000 in waived tap fees and an estimated $2 million for leasing the land. 

Lesmes said the tax credits were a big win for ensuring the project can offer a wide spectrum of affordable options. But she also said the town would eye state money in the future.

 “There’s all kinds of money that is out there from the state government that goes to workforce housing, so we’re looking to apply for as many grants as we can think of,” she said.

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