Summit County keeps Lake Hill housing project on radar |

Summit County keeps Lake Hill housing project on radar

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

An ongoing, slow-moving county project to build affordable housing on 40 acres of the west end of the Lake Hill area between Dillon Dam Road and Interstate 70 made one small step forward recently.

The property in question is part of the White River National Forest, so it cannot be developed without a land conveyance sanctioned by the U.S. Forest Service.

U.S. Congressman Jared Polis has gotten on board with the county’s effort to acquire the land. He sent a letter in early spring to White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams asking about selling the land to the Summit County Government for the purpose of building housing appropriate for Summit County’s work force. According to Summit County assistant manager Thad Noll, the idea of Polis’s letter was to gather information to potentially introduce a bill that would allow the conveyance.

Fitzwilliams replied that the Forest Service may be interested in selling the land. It is bordered by well-trafficked roads and abuts a condominium complex to the west. Gates, roads, a water tank and utility easements make the property appear ready, with no public use that would be affected by a transaction. In short, it’s the definition of a property worth conveying, according to the forest’s resource management plan.

The Dillon Ranger District is also looking to build a new administrative facility in the Lake Hill area. It needs about 10 acres and would consolidate Forest Service operations in a high-efficiency facility that lowers utility and maintenance costs. The consolidation effort is underway across the Forest Service because operations and maintenance budgets are shrinking and Forest Service buildings are becoming dilapidated.

Fitzwilliams said there’s room to do both residential housing and an administrative facility on the property, and Noll said the sale of 40 acres could help fund the new ranger district compound. The Dillon Ranger District’s current compound in Dillon would need to be offloaded as well (and county officials are interested in that as another site for workforce housing), but recent appraisals show the property isn’t valued as high as Forest Service officials originally thought.

“We’re not going to get the value from that property that we need to build a new compound, employee housing, warehouse,” said Peech Keller with the Dillon Ranger District. “It’s not adding up. The cards aren’t looking good right now.”

There are plenty of unanswered questions, Keller said.

Environmental analysis of any of the options on the table hasn’t begun. County officials haven’t initiated their plan to begin engaging vested individuals and groups (Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Sierra Club, Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, and more) who might have something to say about the conveyance and subsequent development. The plan has been through the public process through the Summit County Planning Commission, but Noll guesses that if the project were given the green light, more individuals would be interested in having a say.

“We want to start working with those groups to find out those concerns,” Noll said, adding that county officials will try to mitigate as best they can, keeping in mind that too many concerns or inability to mitigate might mean scrapping the Lake Hill workforce housing idea and turning to something else.

Developing the land would also require close working relationships with employers and agencies associated with workforce housing, such as the Forest Service, the school district, state patrol, the Summit Combined Housing Authority and others, including the Town of Frisco, which has been actively involved in the process.

Currently, the ball is in Polis’s court, Noll said. Should he introduce a bill, county officials would lobby for it to pass, the assistant county manager added.

Even if it goes to a bill, “We really have a lot of work to do in terms of environmental work, what are the conditions out there, what kinds of environmental impacts would this have?” Noll said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.