Summit public land eyed for housing | SummitDaily.com

Summit public land eyed for housing

BOB BERWYN
summit daily news
Breckenridge, Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE ” Summit County is targeting 170 acre of National Forest land between I-70 and the Dillon Dam Road as a potential site for 250-350 units of affordable housing.

Rather than trying to buy the land, or set up a land trade, housing could be developed under a long-term lease with the Forest Service, according to county officials.

Local officials and the Forest Service refer to the land as the “Lake Hill” property. But despite widespread agreement that affordable housing is a critical priority for the county, some members of the county’s open space advisory council have expressed reservations about developing housing on public land.

The concerns focus on the precedent-setting potential of such a move, as well as the perceived sprawl associated with developing public lands at the fringes of local towns.

“We’ve had discussions with the Forest Service. They are very interested in working out arrangement that would allow that property to become available for other uses, including their own,” county manager Gary Martinez said Tuesday at a county commissioner work session.

The county is looking at a 50-acre section of the parcel adjacent to Frisco for housing, while the Forest Service has been thinking about relocating some of its Dillon-area facilities, Martinez said.

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Preliminary concept plans for the property show that the site could be suitable for up to several hundred units of affordable housing. The Forest Service would use between 8 and 10 acres for administrative offices, warehousing and employee housing.

Right now, the Forest Service lacks the authority to make the site available for those uses, so it might take an act of Congress to make it happen. That’s one of the reasons the county commissioners recently asked Tom Glass to lobby for the county in Washington, D.C.

Glass, a Frisco resident and former state senator, also runs Western Land Group, a company that orchestrates land trades between private owners, municipalities and federal land agencies.

The Lake Hill property could be used without changing hands under partnerships and a so-called “enhanced use” lease, similar to authorities currently granted to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county wants Glass to work with Colorado’s delegation in Congress to draft legislation authorizing those uses.

Among many other projects in the region, Western Land Group set up the trade that conveyed Frisco’s Peak One parcel from federal to county ownership. Glass won’t be paid for his advocacy on behalf of the Lake Hill project. Based on his previous work with the federal government, Glass said he can effectively represent the county interests.

“I’ve seen other communities benefit from having a presence,” Glass said.

The commissioners also asked Glass to work on funding for the Old Dillon Reservoir expansion project, as well as completion of the recpath over Swan Mountain Road to Farmer’s Korner.

Commissioner Thomas Davidson said it could be worth pursuing federal stimulus money for the reservoir work. An environmental study for the project could be done this summer, and the expansion of the reservoir from 46 to 286 acres is exactly the type of infrastructure targeted by the stimulus package, Glass said.

Until recently, Glass served on the board of Great Outdoors Colorado and said he has a strong interest in seeing completion of the recpath. Obtaining federal funds for a planning grant this year could set the stage for construction of the final segment in 2010. Getting a little federal money in the pot could help encourage more grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, he said.

Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier asked Glass to watch for funds that might be available to help spur Summit County’s renewable energy efforts, including wind and biomass.

“We’re excited to hire you to help us. You’ve got expertise and insight that we don’t begin to have, with regard to where the greatest potential might lie for us to meet criteria (for funding),” said Davidson, referring to the chase for federal stimulus dollars.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.