Summit County commissioners uphold plans to build dozens of workforce housing units in Keystone
Officials pledge to address concerns around flooding, traffic that homeowners say have stemmed from the Wintergreen apartments
Following a public hearing lasting more than an hour in which the Summit Board of County Commissioners heard testimony for and against a project set to bring 47 income-based housing units to the Village at Wintergreen in Keystone, commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday, Jan. 10, to uphold the plans.
But in doing so, they pledged to address the concerns of the project’s neighboring residents and homeowners who said flooding and traffic could threaten their areas if more housing were to be built near them.
“We’re addressing tensions between a significant need — an increased need — for workforce housing,” said Commissioner Josh Blanchard. “We’re balancing those challenges of course with increased traffic, increased density, the challenges that we’re all facing with climate change — specifically more frequent extreme weather events.”
Under plans approved by the county’s Snake River Planning Commission in November, developer Gorman & Co. would be allowed to finish the job it began in 2018 — when it first broke ground on what would become a 196-apartment development off of U.S. Highway 6 near Keystone Ski Resort.
With the area zoned for up to 243 units, Gorman & Co. plans to build the remaining 47 units, known as Wintergreen Ridge, in a single building. But that proposal received pushback from residents and homeowners in neighboring areas of the development, such as in the Antler’s Gulch Townhomes, who filed an appeal of the planning commission’s decision.
“A property that’s gotten millions of dollars in public subsidies should not be allowed to do nothing about drainage which has already caused our small little HOA a problem,” said Cindy Spade, who sits on the homeowners association board for the Homestead Lodgepole neighborhood.
Flood, traffic concerns raised by nearby homeowners and residents
At the heart of many homeowners’ concerns was fear that further development of the area would exacerbate drainage and flooding issues, which Spade blamed on “impermeable surfaces” unable to absorb stormwater due to construction.
Those who spoke during public comment doubled-down on that issue, blaming Gorman and the existing Wintergreen development for causing flooding of nearby properties in July 2021 — a month that saw flash flood warnings and elevated flood risks for areas along the county’s rivers and streams. Wintergreen and its surrounding neighborhoods sit adjacent to the Snake River.
“It flooded two of our units,” said Pat Panzarino, a Lodgepole homeowner who lives in Lone Tree. “It’s going to keep happening because you’re going to be allowing further impervious surfaces to be built.”
Kimball Crangle, Colorado market president for Gorman, defended Gorman’s development of the property and said the flooding that occurred in 2021 was not a result of the Wintergreen apartments.
Sid Rivers, a senior planner for the county’s planning department, said the site’s drainage system met county standards and added, “We don’t have any evidence that the improvements were constructed poorly or not in accordance with the standards.”
Community Development Director Steve Greer, however, said he is aware that some drainage from the site has been occurring on nearby properties and said the county may need to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation to investigate the issue.
Other homeowners raised concerns about traffic on Antlers Gulch Road, which runs through several neighborhoods and to the existing Wintergreen apartments. They said speeding, unlawful parking and general stress on the road has impacted their quality of life.
Tim Huiting, president of the Keystone Owners Association, said area homeowners have been paying “for all maintenance, all snow removal, all safety requirements” for the road and said a majority of its traffic is generated by Wintergreen residents.
“It’s not right. It’s not right that you approved both of these complexes and Antlers Gulch is stuck with all of the implications of that traffic and no support for the maintenance of that road and the upkeep,” Huiting said.
Developer, commissioners cite need for workforce housing
Crangle, the Colorado market president for Gorman & Co., said the company initially did not want to connect the Wintergreen apartments to Antlers Gulch Road, opting originally for just a single entrance and exit to through Ralson Road further east. But a development agreement with the county forced Gorman & Co. to make two entrances and exits, leading to the connection of Antlers Gulch Road.
“We asked very clearly not to build (the connector) at the time,” Crangle said. “We knew at the time as soon as we put that road in, we would be in the discussions that we’re having from here on until forever.”
Crangle said Gorman & Co. has done more than enough to mitigate the impacts of that connection which includes installing a stop sign to reduce speed, towing or booting cars parked illegally along the road and bringing a Keystone bus route through the area. That bus route, Crangle said, benefits not just Wintergreen residents but surrounding homeowners, which she called a “huge perk.”
Crangle also applauded Gorman & Co.’s outreach to neighbors, which included two community meetings — one in February and one in April — to listen to concerns. Some neighbors complained that the county’s website was not working during the planning commission’s November decision to approve Wintergreen Ridge — meaning some could not watch the meeting online. But those complaints were directed to the county rather than Gorman & Co.
Ultimately, Crangle defended the Wintergreen development and pitched it as a crucial step towards addressing the county’s lack of low- and middle-income housing.
“We see housing scarcity in a different way than many of you do everyday,” Crangle said. “We see long waiting lists, we see very frustrated households that are desperate for housing … and we’re actually trying to be a part of the solution.”
With its first phase development, Wintergreen has brought nearly 200 apartments to the county’s workforce who make between 30% and 60% of the area’s median income. According to 2022 figures from the Summit Combined Housing Authority, that translates to an income range of $21,990 to $43,980 for one person.
Following the hearing, county commissioners voted to reject the appeal and allow the plans for the 47 units at Wintergreen Ridge to move forward, citing the community need for more workforce housing. But they did so with a promise that they would look further into some homeowners’ concerns.
“We’re going to have to play an active part in roads and maintenance and access,” said Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, who added she wants to avoid a “NIMBY” conversation around workforce housing. The acronym stands for “not in my backyard” — a colloquial term prescribed to people who oppose development, particularly housing, near them.
Commissioner Tamara Pogue agreed that the county could do more to help mitigate issues. She called for a report from county staff on drainage in the area as well as a projection of how much it would cost to manage Antlers Gulch Road — both of which she said she wanted ready within 30 days.
But she cautioned community members that throwing up roadblocks for affordable housing projects — and demanding too much of developers — would only stymy such projects in the future.
“These are not developer issues,” she said. “There is no margin in affordable housing, and expecting Gorman & Co. to resolve these issues is not appropriate, in my mind.”
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