Summit County to explore what it would take to develop Lake Hill workforce housing project on its own

Lake Hill is a county project sitting just outside town of Frisco town limits

The 44.8-acre land parcel known as Lake Hill in unincorporated Summit County sits sandwiched between Interstate 70 and Dillon Dam Road. Once constructed over the next decade, it should help fulfill growing housing demands in the Tenmile Basin.
Summit County government/Courtesy photo

When the Summit Board of County Commissioners met with town of Frisco officials last week to discuss the Lake Hill workforce housing project, the two entities couldn’t come to an agreement on how the burden and cost of the development would be split

Town representatives stressed Frisco’s limited water rights and a need for financial backing from the county, while county officials expressed a desire to avoid burdening taxpayers. 

A large portion of the conversation centered on whether or not the density for the project should be raised. Under current plans, the project would bring about 436 — 300 multifamily units, 85 townhome units and 51 single-family units — to 1,000 local workers. The county commissioners wanted to explore the possibility of raising the density, but the town and the Frisco Sanitation District expressed concerns about infrastructure limits, particularly regarding water and sewer upgrades. 

During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting the following week, the commissioners stressed how much they wanted to move forward with the project and explore additional density, with or without the town’s help. Summit County Manager Scott Vargo pointed out that doing so would cause delays in a project that’s been in the works for over 20 years

“The fact is that if we move down the path of trying to provide water and wastewater infrastructure ourselves, on-site or near-site, the project will see delays — that’s an inevitability,” Vargo said. “We would almost certainly have to go back through the impact analysis project again because we would be looking at a larger development than the 436 (units) that’s been planned for, and even the secondary 550 (units) that was part of some of that impact analysis work.” 

Vargo pointed out that since the impact analysis for Lake Hill was completed in September 2021, the cost of construction and equipment has risen, meaning it will take more taxpayer funds to develop than originally expected. All that being said, he said if the commissioners decide to move forward without the town, they get to “control (their) own destiny in regards to Lake Hill and what that looks like and the size of it.” 

Lawrence said it would be “irresponsible” of the board not to explore adding density to the project considering just how big of a need affordable and attainable housing is within the community. 

“Where is the other 45-acre block of land in the county that’s easily accessible for us to build housing on,” she asked. “There isn’t one. This is it. While we have people that want to partner with us on this, I just think moving forward and trying to increase density is the right thing to do.” 

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue agreed and said she wanted to move the project along as quickly as possible. 

“I heard loud and clear that Frisco does not feel like they have the water to support this project and so long-term, it seems to me to be a better option for the entire community for us to try and explore what the other options are as quickly as possible,” Pogue said. “I don’t love the delay, but I agree with Elisabeth — passing up on density at this point in the crisis seems like a big mistake to me.” 

Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard clarified that he does not want to jeopardize Frisco’s water but that he agreed this project should be moved forward quickly. 

To wrap up the meeting, Lawrence advised Vargo that this project should be moved to the top of the county’s to-do list so as not to lose out on possible state funding opportunities. 

“I do worry about the delay a bit just because of the available funding,” Lawrence said. “I think we’re just going to have to move this to the very top priority, and whatever we need to do — if that’s extra folks to come in and help manage this project — to take advantage of those housing funds that are out there, I think, is really, really important.” 

Vargo said he would meet with Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz to regroup and figure out the best path forward. In a follow-up interview, Vargo said that depending on what the county finds in future analysis, working with the town of Frisoc might still be the best option. He noted that the county will continue to engage with the town about the project and that any future partnership with the town is still open. 

“We don’t want to damage any ongoing relationships,” he said.

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