Summit County reveals significant updates on affordable housing projects — old and new
As Summit County moves into the second half of the short-term rental moratorium and housing for workers in the county remains an issue in the community, many county-run housing projects continue to chug forward.
“It’s no secret — people are desperate for housing,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said. “The more units that we can preserve, or convert, or build, the stronger our community will be.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the Summit Board of County Commissioners reviewed progress on the many projects including undertakings like Lake Hill, the Days Inn and accessory dwelling units.
The housing project for Lake Hill has been in the works for over 20 years. Located between the Dillon Dam Road and Interstate 70, this parcel has faced multiple barriers in the fight to build affordable housing units.
“I’ll be the first to say this project has taken far too long,” Pogue said. “Even before I was a commissioner, I was frustrated by how long it was taking. But as a commissioner, I’ve come to realize just how complicated this project is.”
From water rights to density constraints, commissioners have been working toward reviving this project up, taking on its issues one by one.
Because this housing project was planned long ago, Summit County’s population has surpassed the previous need. Therefore, this spring, commissioners asked if density could be increased to match current demand.
“Lake Hill is one of the last remaining large parcels that Summit County has available for housing,” Pogue said. “So I feel a deep obligation to the people of Summit County to maximize the density on that parcel.”
It was announced on Tuesday that the county’s hard work paid off. Landscape architect Norris Design, who was contracted by the county, conceptualized a way to increase the number of units to about 900.
Housing Director Jason Dietz said while the number of units may have doubled, the parcel’s density is not unusual. According to Dietz, there will be about 20 units per acre of land. He explained that the parcel’s expected density of 436 units wasn’t that dense to begin with and instead of there being single-family duplexes, the county will build more apartment-style townhomes.
The next step for the county is to secure water treatment and sanitation facilities. Originally, Lake Hill was supposed to rely on the Frisco Sanitation District’s water and sewage facilities. However, Dietz explained that the housing development was outside of the town’s boundaries, which meant the county had to find another solution.
Therefore, Dietz said the county decided to build their own water treatment and sanitation facility for the Lake Hill project. Engineering firm Tetra Tech has been hired by the county to evaluate those possibilities. Though they are in the early phases, Dietz said things look good so far.
Similar to the Alpine Inn, which the county converted to workforce housing in the summer of 2021, the county entered a contract with the Days Inn located in Silverthorne this summer to add more local workforce housing.
Alpine Inn, which provided 38 units, racked up a waitlist of about 200 folks. The county planned to help people on the waitlist by offering them units at the Days Inn, which — at the time — would have provided 70 units, 30 of which were equipped with kitchens, according to past reporting.
Units were supposed to go online on Aug. 1 of this year, but that date was delayed and units are yet to open for enrollment.
During that time, however, renovations have taken place that improved those units. About 51 units are available now. 30 have an in-unit kitchen and 21 will have access to a common kitchen that will be used by other residents in the building.
Dietz said once a finish date for construction is solidified, the county can begin making plans to open applications. They will also reach out to people on the Alpine Inn waitlist.
Accessory dwelling units
This housing initiative brings Summit County residents into the mix. Over the summer, Dietz explained that the county made adjustments to land-use codes to enable land and home owners to provide accessory dwelling units on their own property.
Accessory dwelling units are structures that are located on folks’ property that can be used for housing. They’re a housing strategy that has been used before, but now the rules are less restrictive.
In the past, Dietz said folks would have to apply to change the land use of their property. The units were also restricted to attached structures like a unit above a garage — they could not be standalone buildings.
Now, people can submit a form and receive permission via a building permit. Dietz said it is most commonly used by single-family or duplex lots, and the units can now be standalone instead of strictly attached to a get approval.
Dietz said there are currently 150 to 160 accessory dwelling units in use throughout unrestricted Summit County.
‘This is a way for us to add more units on land that has existing development, which obviously decreases our impact,” Pogue said. “It’s also a really good way for homeowners to play a role in resolving or mitigating some of the crisis. So I’m hoping that this is a very successful strategy and that folks in the community will recognize it for the opportunity.”
Dietz reported the LOGE hotel in Breckenridge housed its first residents on Nov. 18.
The hotel, which was purchased in a 50/50 split between the town of Breckenridge and the county, is meant to be transitional housing for folks until they can find a permanent place to live.
Dietz added that one of the first tenants to move in was a person who had — until then — been living in their car.
Thirty-eight rooms are available at the hotel, with 19 available for towns’ use, 17 available for the county government’s use, and two restricted to “immediate housing needs,” according to the planning department.
Pogue recognized that despite the county’s progress, there is still more work to be done. More housing is needed at a faster pace. However, she added that she is proud of how far they’ve come.
“When I started as a commissioner, we sort of inherited the worst housing crisis this community has ever seen,” Pogue said. “We put together a housing plan that had short-, middle- and long-term strategies, and we’ve executed on that for the community.”
From code improvements to short-term options like the hotel conversions, the county has found solutions, she added. “While none of this is enough, while none of this is fast enough — I do think this is one of the strongest housing plants in the state,” Pogue said.
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