Coffey Place

Participants in a site visit last week to the area where Coffey Place would be built check story poles on a hillside. The Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday approved the development with two fewer units than originally planned.

The Snowmass Village Town Council approved the Coffey Place affordable housing development on Tuesday with two fewer units than were in the plan last week.

The town’s own Coffey Place affordable housing development was back in front of elected officials Tuesday night, a week after council members and interested citizens took a site visit that better outlined where the 17 new homes  would be constructed adjacent to and within the existing Rodeo Place neighborhood. The plan called for 11 single-family houses and six duplex residences in three buildings.

Tuesday night saw a second try at the second hearing of a proposed ordinance that would allow the town to rezone the land where the homes would be built from Recreation and Single-Family Residential to Multi-Family Residential and Conservation. The hearing was continued from Aug. 19, when council members requested the site visit rather than approve the ordinance, which sailed through its first hearing on Aug. 5.

The hearing started off on a slightly unexpected note when Snowmass Village Housing Director Betsy Crum announced that after seeing the site with the lots and building envelopes staked out, she favored eliminating two of the single-family houses, bringing the total number of units down to 15.

“With the council’s approval, I’d like to ask that an amendment be made tonight, if possible, without further referral to the planning commission to eliminate lots 13 and 14,” Crum said.

The two lots had been planned along with three others for a spur road extending off Stallion Circle, putting them very much in the view plane of drivers along Brush Creek Road. All the council members agreed that the units were obtrusive and voted in favor of the amendment.

While the decision reduces the number of houses, it does solve a problem that the development faced before. As platted, Coffey Place would have required rerouting the popular Seven Star mountain bike trail. However, with lots 13 and 14 eliminated, the trail will stay pretty much where it is now.

Coffey Place

Participants in a site visit last week to the area where Coffey Place would be built walk along a portion of the Seven Star mountain biking trail that would have had to be rerouted, if the town did not decide after that site visit to eliminate two of the 17 units planned.

Despite agreeing on the amendment, the council members were not of one mind regarding some of the other aspects of Coffey Place. Councilman Bob Sirkus suggested the idea of making the duplexes rental properties, although the rest of the council seemed to disagree with that notion. And there was some debate regarding the construction of the duplexes, which will be built into a hillside with a slope greater than 30 degrees.

Representatives from Charles Cunniffe Architects, which is designing the development, and RA Nelson, which will build it, assured the council that the retaining walls that will be built some five feet behind the back walls of the units will increase the stability of the slope, be virtually invisible from the street and have no effect on the existing townhomes, which have had some issues in the past with settling and drainage.

After hearing comments from four members of the public who voiced their support for affordable housing but had their concerns about some aspects of Coffey Place, Sirkus decided he needed to know more about the costs involved and asked that the discussion be tabled until after a Coffey Place owner’s update.

The main thrust of the owner’s update — the town is the owner, since the development would be on the town’s land — revolved around the extra amount of subsidy needed for the development. Initially, the Coffey Place subsidy was $3.3 million, or $194,000 per unit. Crum, however, suggested an extra subsidy of $1.5 million, which would bring the per-unit total to $282,000 and bring the prices down to between $490,816 and $772,631, from $563,203 to $886,581.

“I would also add that the reduction of units 13 and 14 will allow the subsidies to spread a little further,” said Crum. “In looking at what that would mean, that could reduce the income level for those purchasing the houses to a range of about $90,000 to $145,000 (down from about $110,000-$173,000).”

The idea of making the houses available to a wider range of people sat well with the council, but there was still some concern that the extra $1.5 million would make it harder for the town to build more affordable housing – including much-needed rental units – for years to come. But Crum showed that the town’s coffers are healthy enough that even with the added subsidy, the town has money to get started on other projects. 

That seemed to assuage a lot of concerns, and the council members all expressed support for the $1.5 million subsidy before reopening the hearing on the proposed rezoning ordinance. This time around, with most of their questions answered, and despite Sirkus’s lingering reservations, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.

The approval means that once the plat is revised, minus units 13 and 14, construction could start in just a few weeks.

“All of our friends and families down at Rodeo Place are going to get some new neighbors,” chimed in Mayor Markey Butler after the vote. 

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.