Soils dilemma forces housing group into creative financing |

Soils dilemma forces housing group into creative financing

by Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members voted with their faith in the American consumer last week when they decided to fund three projects in a time of fiscal belt-tightening.

Town officials agreed to allocate up to $60,000 to Gibson Heights, a Summit Housing Authority attainable housing project in French Gulch, to help with soils problems encountered there this summer. They also agreed to pay $66,000 toward additional improvements at the old Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon, and gave Town Manager Tim Gagen authorization to bid on an antique locomotive to complement the engine at the rotary snowplow park on Boreas Pass Road.

The decisions didn’t come easily, however.

Sales tax revenue, which helps fund a variety of town projects each year, has been down since late last year when the national economy began to stagger and visitors to the High Country kept tighter holds on their wallets. Yet, town officials have been able to make ends meet through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, a 1 percent tax assessed on the sale of property.

Gagen said last week he believes summer sales tax revenues will begin to rebound after a less-than-stellar spring. Based on that prognosis, council members said they felt a little better about funding additional projects.

Arguably, the most important project needing funds is Gibson Heights, where a geologist has determined soil underneath four lots at the project east of Breckenridge is not stable enough to support the three homes and duplex slated to be built there.

“We don’t have -ray eyes,” said Gordon Ferris, director of Summit Housing Authority (SHA). “There were 12 pits dug on the site, and four of those were within 150 feet of the problem soils. None of them showed what we are encountering. We can build on them; they just doesn’t have the bearing capacity as the rest of the site.”

Excavation on lots 9, 10, 11 and 12 this spring divulged loose dredge rock, logs, concrete, steel and municipal trash, said geologist Christopher Noraka of HP Geotechnical of Silverthorne. At 17 feet, excavators found soft, wet sandy clay – and water.

Noraka recommended pouring slab foundations to alleviate settling on the four lots. The foundations, he wrote, should be separated from the soil by a minimum of six inches of compacted, clean gravel and a polyethylene sheet to divert any methane gas that might occur as the organic debris below decomposes.

The cost, however, is estimated to be $90,000, which would increase the cost of the homes by $5,000 to $18,000 apiece.

The homes are considered affordable, and as such must meet criteria set forth by the Housing and Urban Development agency. Would-be buyers can make no more than 80 percent of the Area Mean Income (AMI), described as the amount of income where half the workforce makes more and half makes less. In Summit County, that amount is $72,700 for a family of four. Based on HUD calculations, 80 percent AMI is $54,400, Ferris said.

All of the sales were negotiated at less than the 80 percent cap, and will have to be renegotiated. Buyers will be able to assume the extra cost in a zero-percent loan taken from SHA’s Downpayment Assistance Program. Those loans – totalling about $53,000 – will be reimbursed by the town if the homeowner stays in their home for five or more years. If they sell the home before that time, the cost will be rolled over into the new loan provided to the next homeowner. That $53,000 is included in the amount the town promised last week to provide.

Ferris told town council members last week SHA can provide the remaining $30,000.

There are 40 units in Gibson Heights, all of which are under contract. Twenty are townhomes, 10 are duplexes and 10 are single-family homes. Two of those homes will be built by Habitat for Humanity, Ferris said. Townhomes ranged in price from $145,000 to $153,000; duplexes sold for $178,000 and homes for $195,000 to $211,000.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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