Pitkin County took the first step in a lengthy planning process for the future of Phillips Trailer Park on Saturday with an open house that gave residents an opportunity to voice concerns ranging from septic systems to drinking water to wildfire mitigation.
Turnout was good, with around 30 residents attending the session, according to Carbondale land use planner Bob Schultz, who was working with another Carbondale planner, landscape architect Laura Kirk of DHM Design, to gather input at the site from those who live there. DHM has a contract with the county to initiate the planning process for the 76-acre property, which it purchased in January for $6.5 million with the goal of preserving it as affordable housing. The land had been in the hands of the same family for about nine decades.
The Phillips property, located a few miles north of Woody Creek, consists primarily of about 30 units on the hillside along Lower River Road east of the Roaring Fork River. Another 10 units are located on the opposite side of the river, just off Highway 82 near mile-marker 30. The Rio Grande Trail winds through the area.
Pitkin County public health director Karen Koenemann also was at the open house, which had the stated purpose of obtaining information for a health impact assessment that will be part of a broader planning effort. Koenemann and others said a master plan will be created for the property at some point, and while some changes could be in store for the area, nothing will happen this year. For now, the county is maintaining the trailer park with the help of Phillip’s longtime supervisors, but is in the process of making minor repairs to improve septic and water systems, Schultz said.
“We had two goals today,” Schultz explained. “One goal was to let the residents know that nothing’s going to happen right away. On the ground, nothing is going to change before 2020, other than minor repairs and keeping everything working properly.”
The second goal, he said, was to hear the community’s concerns and also find out what they like about the area. Aside from sharing pressing issues relating to septic and water systems, residents also talked about the need for mitigation to prepare for wildfires and debris flow. In addition to Kirk and Schultz, the planning team also includes a representative of SGM Engineering, which will look at stormwater patterns.
“In general, people seem to appreciate living here and they really appreciate that the former owners kept the space rentals affordable,” he said. “There are some infrastructure issues. One of the challenges of keeping things affordable is, where is the money for the big improvement projects? There’s money to patch things, but where is the money to revamp systems to make them work more efficiently?”
Another open house at the property likely will be held in November or December, Schultz said. Following that, Pitkin County commissioners and the Woody Creek Caucus also will be asked for input and direction, he said. Commissioners shared some basic thoughts about the trailer park during their annual retreat last week.
Kirk said some residents expressed hope for a laundry room and garbage dumpsters, among other amenities. Any major changes, such as a potential redevelopment of the area or new construction, would be subject to the county’s land-use process, Schultz said.
Koenemann said the health impact assessment is being integrated into the overall planning process. She said rather than shaping the process, the county has decided to “let it unfold” naturally.
“It’s hard, because a lot of folks want to know what’s going to happen in the future,” she said. “But this is the first step in letting the process unfold, and if we don’t hear from community members, the county could make a lot of decisions in a vacuum.”
In addition to future infrastructure improvements relating to water and septic systems, the county also could consider helping residents with other basic issues, such as weatherization projects designed to improve heating efficiency, as well as testing for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause health problems. Koenemann said she did not know whether the trailer park had radon levels that would be high enough to cause concern because the testing hasn’t been conducted.
“Those are some of the things the public health department would want to consider,” she said.
Koenemann added that other opportunities for the site could be creation of a playground for children in the area, as well as a community garden.