Phillips Riverside

The riverside area of Phillips Trailer Park has been identified as unsuitable for continued habitation because it lies within a flood plain and the water and wastewater systems are outdated, according to Pitkin County staff and consultants.

Discussions about the Phillips Trailer Park project moved forward last Tuesday during a work session of Pitkin County commissioners.

Assistant County Manager Phylis Mattice sought input on whether elected officials wanted county staff to seek state and federal dollars for various efforts designed to improve and expand the 40-unit community, which is split by the Roaring Fork River, a few miles north of Woody Creek. Around 10 units are located on the riverside, off Highway 82, while some 30 units are on a hillside off Lower River Road. The county obtained the 65-acre property more than two years ago from a local family for $6.5 million.

“This conversation’s really about where’s the money, how can it help us and what do we need to do if we wanted to access that money,” Mattice said.

In discussions over the last year, commissioners already have expressed support for a plan by staff and consultants to remove the residences on the riverside. Areas of the riverside have been identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of a flood plain. Both the riverside and hillside suffer from outdated infrastructure systems, including wastewater, water and roads. Residents on the riverside are expected to be offered assistance in relocating to certain spots within the hillside area — if the county deems that their structures can be moved. 

While the riverside is being marked as a future park or county open space, the hillside has been slated as an opportunity to expand the county’s affordable-housing stock. The area may end up being home to a mix of existing trailers, relocated trailers and new condo-type apartments for a total of between 50 and 60 units. Commissioners have not expressed support for going beyond a potential 60-unit maximum due to the rural nature of the community’s surroundings.

During the virtual meeting, Mattice introduced Jenn Lopez of Project Moxie in Durango. Her company has been involved in exploring public funding opportunities for affordable housing projects. Lopez has been lined up to serve as additional consultant on the Phillips project.

“It’s such a unique piece of property and there are so many opportunities there in terms of being able to preserve certain aspects of the site,” Lopez said.

Potential funding sources touted during the meeting include a state revolving loan fund for water and wastewater projects; a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program, also for water and wastewater systems; Community Development Block Grants and state housing funds that could be applied on a per-unit basis; and FEMA monies that can be used to relocate structures within a flood plain.

Much of the discussion involved “strings that are attached” by accepting certain government funds under the Uniform Relocation and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. More commonly known as the URA, it establishes minimum requirements for programs and projects — the goal being the “uniform, fair and equitable treatment of people.”

Mattice and Lopez promised to return to the Board of County Commissioners with more specific details about possible funding opportunities, as well as cost estimates for various Phillips-related projects, this fall.

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at andre@aspendailynews.com.