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West End Village critiqued

Meeting held to discuss project's successes, failures

Christine Metz

— Various groups that helped create West End Village came together Wednesday night to look at ways another affordable housing project could be made easier.

Sidewalks, waterlines, alleys and bus routes were all part of a discussion that acknowledged the successes and failures of the project.

Developer Tony Connell came before the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which sponsored the meeting, and urged the board not to micromanage construction of affordable projects.

“The big thing to stress in this: The speed at which the project gets built is critical,” Connell said. “We have advantage as (the) developer; when we need a decision, we don’t have to go to some board, don’t have to have permission, don’t have to negotiate lots of things.”

Built by the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, West End Village is the community’s first homeowner-affordable housing project. The development, just off Downhill Drive, includes 38 homes that are deed-restricted through RALF. Another 35 lots were sold on the open market.

Buying the deed-restricted lots was limited the people who lived or worked in Routt County and made no more than 120 percent of the area’s median income. All deed-restricted owners also received down payment assistance from RALF through a silent second mortgage.

The project faced many stumbling blocks, including the original developer, Steve Cavanagh, pulling out after Sept. 11, 2001. In November, Connell LLC stepped in to replace Cavanagh to keep the project afloat. By the spring of 2003, modular homes were arriving at West End Village and Connell was selling the open market lots. All the lots sold within a year.

On Wednesday, the group also talked about ridgeline regulations and public criticism that the houses were too close to a ridge overlooking U.S. Highway 40. Working with city-required setbacks and utility easements, Connell said the houses were as far away from the ridgeline as possible.

Alleys also were discussed. Connell said he would recommend them on other projects west of town if they were on large, flat sites.

Housing Authority board member Mary Alice Page-Allen recommended that more marketing and education be done to educate the public before the next affordable housing project gets under way.

Board member Jim Ballard also asked about getting bus transportation service to the West End Village development. City Manager Paul Hughes said there is a long list of areas for which people want bus service.

“It is a matter of cost and how it fits into other priorities and a matter of if we can find a dedicated funding source to do that,” Hughes said.

Resident Stuart Orzach asked about RALF board members and elected officials buying lots for resale in the free-market portion of the project.

“This is a chance to give the public an explanation and accurate response,” Orzach said.

Although none of those who purchased the lots responded to Orzach’s question, Connell and County Commissioner and board member Nancy Stahoviak did.

Both said the purchases were made long after the open market lots were offered privately to members in the public-service industry, such as teachers, hospital workers and government employees.

“They believe in affordable housing, want to support affordable housing, and that is why they did it,” Stahoviak said.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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