Pitkin County is on pace to jump into the real estate market.
Despite reservations from two commissioners about unresolved details over how a Basalt condominium will fit into the county’s nascent employee-housing inventory, officials Wednesday gave initial approval to buying the unit.
If passed on second reading on Oct. 24, the $342,000 purchase will be the county’s first for its own housing program. The money comes from a $2.3 million pot of money in the 2012 budget devoted to building up the county’s housing inventory. The $2.3 million, in turn, is part of the roughly $11 million overall that the county has raised from housing impact fees and payments from developers made in lieu of providing employee housing.
The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath Columbines at Elk Run townhome is nearly 2,000 square feet and is being sold by Mary Hyde Millard, according to a memo to commissioners.
County Manager Jon Peacock told the county board that unit 603 on Wren Court would be the first property in a portfolio of employee housing.
The unit was selected because it met affordable-housing goals laid out by commissioners and staff, including its being within Basalt’s urban-growth boundary, and near schools, downtown and public transportation, Peacock said.
Commissioner Rob Ittner said he generally supported buying the condo.
“But we haven’t made a decision on whether it will be a rental unit or if we’ll be selling it, whether it will go to a county employee or be open to the general public” through the housing lottery, he said. “As a board, we haven’t made a decision on how the property will be used.”
Other issues that need to be worked out are how many county employees are looking for a home and what category of affordable housing the unit should be placed in, Ittner said.
Commissioners Rachel Richards and Jack Hatfield questioned why parking for the unit had been reduced from two spaces to one. Hatfield called that unrealistic.
The unit originally had one space, and the upgrade to two was deemed a scrivener’s error, the board was told. Commissioner Michael Owsley said having two spaces underscores Americans’ dependence on automobiles.
“There’s a balance here,” he said, reiterating the unit’s proximity to downtown Basalt and mass transit. “I think it balances out.”
He eventually ended the discussion of such details, saying what was before the board was simply authorizing the purchase.
Richards testily noted that it was only 1:30 p.m. and that the meeting was to last until 5. She said the discussion should continue because “it seems like we threw a dart at a board to find a house.”
But Owsley said a “full-throated” discussion of details of the purchase should come at a later time; taking the matter beyond simply whether to buy the condo could cripple the purchase, he said.
Peacock said it will be up the commissioners to decide if the county uses the unit as a rental or sells it in the affordable housing program. He acknowledged that the county needs to develop policies on the units it buys — “This is new for us,” he said — because “real estate opportunities are happening fast.”
Richards said she would support the real estate deal because she believes the board is supportive of a variety of housing types, and the ordinance approving the purchase passed 4-0.