Opinion | Susan Knopf: How much would you pay? | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: How much would you pay?

Housing tops the list of the most vexing worries here in Summit County and across the country. 

County staff and elected officials are working to address the issue.

Some ideas will be featured in this space in the next weeks, and discussed at “County 101: Housing the Missing Middle,” Feb. 27 at 11 a.m. at Summit County Senior and Community Center. State officials, including people from Gov. Jared Polis’ office, will join the community conversation.

Of all the ideas officials are putting forward, Lake Hill is one of the most costly.

For the record, I was a big fan of this project. Then I got schooled. It just doesn’t add up.

If you go to the county’s website, you can check out the Lake Hill Workforce Housing Development Impact Study, which lists the pricey issues.

Summit Daily News columnist Bruce Butler said in an email, “Lake Hill will be some of the most expensive subsidized housing ever constructed — if it happens.”

According to the county commissioned study, waste water treatment alone will cost $13.7 million. Fresh water will cost another $7.7 million. That’s before a single unit of housing is constructed.

The traffic study revealed the one issue that is most difficult to overcome. The property is situated between the Lake Dillon Reservoir dam and the Frisco housing units bordering Interstate 70. If you are local, you know that road features traffic impediments at both ends, and very little wiggle room in-between.

The 2021 study presumed a development of 332 units: 37 single family and 295 multi-family units. Some say current discussions call for enlarging the project to 600 units. I guess that’s to justify the pricey infrastructure?

How many cars do you think that means? I’d say hundreds. Hundreds more cars on that two-lane road between Dillon and Frisco? Does that seem like a good idea? Yeah, I don’t think so. 

According my phone notifications, the dam road closed 11 times in January. Now imagine hundreds of cars using only the intersection at I-70 and Colorado Highway 9 by Safeway. Count the number of businesses that will impact.

As Butler said, “if it happens”… or until it happens … why can’t we use this county property in a way that won’t destroy future value, but might create great current value, with little infrastructure cost?

You know what we’re missing? Overnight parking, and RV parking for local workers and tourists passing through. Most federally controlled campsites are closed in the winter. In the past, Commissioner Tamara Pogue has told me RV parking isn’t a good bang for the buck. It isn’t dense enough.

Longtime county local Tom Castrigno says, “While you’re figuring it all out, why not just use it for safe overnight parking?”

Castrigno serves on the Unsheltered in Summit committee. Unsheltered partners with both the county and the Town of Frisco, to provide safe overnight parking for local workers who lack conventional shelter.

Castrigno says, “First and foremost, Summit County is a recreation destination. That’s what we need to protect.” “A little nick here and a little nick there. It all adds up.”

Castrigno says he’d like Lake Hill to remain as it is, with no more than a couple dozen housing units going in on the site. Of course that won’t justify the infrastructure tab.

In the meantime, while we sort this out, let’s make use of the land we have to foster our economy. We can provide safe overnight parking, year-round RV parking for local workers and some tourists. We can do it on land we already own. Clearing the site for this purpose can be done with development requirements in mind, just in case they figure out a way to reduce the costs and the Lake Hill project moves forward.

The county commissioners passed a 2023 budget allocating $400,000 to Lake Hill. Housing Director Jason Dietz said, “The $400K is earmarked for additional studies, designs and reports that will be needed for permitting and entitlements.”

I bet it’s more than enough money to create an overnight parking space on Lake Hill to serve the current needs of our service workers. Write the editor or your county commissioner if you agree.

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