Upper Blue workforce housing development heads to commissioners for approval
A potential new housing development outside of Breckenridge has moved a step closer to final approval after the Upper Blue Planning Commission gave a preliminary vote to rezone the land. The 23.4 acre plot of forested land is currently vacant and set aside for agricultural use. The vote from the planning commission allows the development to move forward with rezoning for planned unit development with Summit County commissioners.
The Trails at Berlin Placer is planned to have 14 market units and 21 deed restricted units for workforce housing. Jeff Francis, Breckenridge resident and co-owner of Berlin Placer Development, LLC, said that they will also be donating a parcel of land for Habitat for Humanity to build a house on.
Francis and his business partner Andy Hayhurst first identified the land for its workforce housing potential back in the fall of 2015. The Upper Blue Planning Commission had also identified the spot at the intersection of Baldy and Sally Barber roads as ideal for housing due to its proximity to water lines and a bus route. By the next year, Francis and Hayhurst had begun working with the planning commission, as well as the town of Breckenridge, on the new development. Both entities voiced concern on the ratio of the proposed 50 housing units, which was previously 60 percent market, and 40 percent workforce. They also had concerns about the density of housing.
Francis said that they took the concerns of the planning commission and council, as well as some of the neighborhood concerns, to create their current plan. Their first step was to reverse the ratio, making it 40 percent market homes and 60 percent deed restricted. The Upper Blue Planning Commission gave a preliminary OK for the rezoning of the land for the development during its April 27 meeting.
“We really tried to listen to the neighbors, we listened to the Upper Blue Planning Commission, we listened to staff, we listened to all the referral agencies and we really tried to bring together a project that incorporated all of those comments into something that the town and we are very proud of,” Francis said.
Concerns from neighboring landowners arose last summer and have continued. Many were worried that the development would block their view of the forest. The development is on a lower area of land, and Francis said that the new development will follow all height restrictions set forth by county code. While homeowners will likely see roofs from the development, their views will not be totally obscured.
“We really welcome as much public input as possible, obviously there (were) a couple local adjacent property owners that didn’t want this,” said a member of the Upper Blue Planning Commission. “The argument of … ‘We like looking over the woods, and that’s all we want to look over is the woods,’ has validity to us as commissioners, we totally listen to it, but we have to listen to the whole community’s needs as well.”
The next step for the land rezoning is approval by Summit County commissioners. Part of the process is to prove the project has support from entities such as Upper Blue Sanitation and the town of Breckenridge for water usage.
After meeting with the Breckenridge Town Council last August, the town showed its support for the project once the workforce ratio was changed. Mark Truckey, the assistant director of community development, said that the project would help serve the need for county workforce members looking to buy instead of rent. Many of Breckenridge’s recent projects, such as Denison Placer II and Huron Landing, are both rental housing developments. Denison Placer units, which will be under construction this summer, will have for-sale units as well.
“There’s room for some more for-sale product out there,” he said.
Francis said that they have also been working with the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission to improve rec trails in the area. The plan includes trail easements as well as a new parking area with 20 spaces for the trailhead on Sally Barber Road. Hayhurst said that the current setup is not adequate for trail usage.
“It’s a cluster, especially in winter,” he said.
The developers also worked with the Summit Stage to add a shelter to the Rock Ridge bus stop and have it moved closer to where the housing project will be located. Hayhurst said that the new location was also safer than the previous bus stop, where riders had to wait by a steep and sometimes icy road. Truckey said that the bus stop and trail system would make the Trails at Berlin Placer a benefit to the community. He added that the original trails there were not made with sustainability in mind and that the project would help provide better options for the community.
“There’s not that many properties that are located out of the town boundaries that are well suited to accommodate affordable housing, but this is one of them,” Truckey said. “We need partners to help provide the housing that we need for the community so it’s great to see this happen out in the county.”
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