Summit County’s transferable development rights program makes an exception for affordable housing

Mike Dudick, right, discusses plans for The Moose Landing housing project with Keenny Thaemert on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Located near the Breckenridge Distillery, the housing was completed by the Town of Breckenridge to provide affordable housing for employees of Breckenridge Grand The Holidays.
Liz Copan / Daily Summit News Archive

With natural beauty as awe-inspiring as it is in Summit County, it’s no wonder the community has so many transplants. But as more people move here and more businesses open their doors, a Catch-22 is slowly starting to show up: should developers keep building to meet the higher demand? community resources – such as daycares and housing – or should these resources be moved elsewhere to protect the splendor of the county’s outdoor playground?

This is a question that county and city leaders often face, and to help solve the problem, the Transferable Development Rights program was born. Launched around 2000, the county program aims to protect the community’s natural resources by enabling the voluntary transfer of development rights from rural areas in the hinterland to urban areas.

“We created this program to encourage the owners of these mining concessions to transfer their development right, or sell their development right, to a developer so that the developer can use those development rights in a more appropriate place, such as in a urban area, ”said Jim Curnutte, director of community development for Summit County.

To date, the program has protected approximately 2,000 acres in the upper Blue River basin and has generated more than $ 4 million to recycle for more open space purchases. Not only that, but it actually increased the amount of density allowed in some developments.

Curnutte explained that when the county adopted the zoning in 1969, the entire community was divided into various parcels that had limits on the density of future developments. Curnutte said some areas likely had more than enough density allowed on one plot, while other plots might not have enough. Through the transferable development rights program, these density units could be bought and traded.

For example, if the owner of a backcountry parcel wanted to ensure that their land was protected for years to come, they could sell their transferable development rights to a developer. That developer would then add these additional density units to their property, which means that it may now be a larger development than the original intention of zoning.

Curnutte explained that this was done for projects like the Village at Wintergreen in Keystone. The zoning of this parcel of land did not originally allow the project to contain as many apartments as it currently does, but thanks to this program, the housing project could be larger.

Curnette said the program aims to control the growth of the county.

“The county master plan talks about growth and development, controlling growth and preserving community character,” he said. “So the county master plan explains how we shouldn’t be planning a property, and if someone wants to develop a particular site, they should be forced to transfer the density from another location, and that way we don’t no net gain.

There is one exception: affordable housing projects. Because these housing developments are so essential to the success of the county, they do not need to transfer density units through this program. Curnutte said these projects essentially benefit from “free density”. This was the case with the Trails at Berlin Placer in Breckenridge.

“This is how we push developers to provide affordable housing, is that it’s basically free density,” Curnutte said. “So you’ll have to bring in density for your units at the market rate and transfer it, but if you are going to create an affordable housing element, you don’t need to transfer that density. “

The Trails of Berlin Placer property was originally zoned for one unit, but the developer wanted the “upper zone” at 14 free market density units and 21 affordable housing units. Thirteen of these units had to be transferred as part of the county program, but the remaining 21 were added at no additional cost.

The program is not always guaranteed to work, however. Mike Dudick, co-owner and CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, said he has a few plans that could use this program, but whether these come to fruition depends on whether government leaders think a certain plot should. receive more density units.

“The County and Town (of Breckenridge) have the ability to place additional density on the plots if they choose to do so, whether it’s from the bank (transferable development rights) or they’re just creating it at starting from scratch, ”Dudick said. . “They have the capacity to accommodate the workforce. “

Dudick said the company has taken advantage of this program at least once in its history and has been denied additional units for housing before, which has been the case for its gondola grounds in Breckenridge.

“We asked them for more density to build housing for the workforce, and they said no because they didn’t like it on this site in the heart of the city,” he said. .

This does not mean that the company does not provide housing for the employees. Dudick said Breckenridge Grand Vacations currently houses around 12% of its workforce in 68 rooms. This includes Moose Landing as well as a few units at Peak 7, Peak 8, and Grand Timber Lodge.

Curnette said most of the developments that have added affordable housing units through this program are based in Breckenridge. Mark Truckey, the city’s director of community development, did not return a request for comment with a list of some of these projects until this article was published.

Margie D. Carlisle