So at least you know it will be safe. Or, at least, secure.
The latter was one of the off-hand points made by a nearby property owner, Jonathan Greenspan, who is making plans for an affordable housing project on the north side of CR 63L (Ilium Road), during Tuesday’s meeting with the San Miguel County Commissioners.
He is already using a portion of his three acres, which are accessed from Vance Drive, for his landscaping and recycling business. But Greenspan has always had his eye on it as a perfect spot to fill a critical need: not for just so-called “affordable housing,” but for housing that actually is affordable. Not $200,000 to $300,000, but “entry level,” he said, in the $165,000 to $185,000 range.
Greenspan figures, for being such a challenged locale for residential living, it sure beats the living daylights out of Montrose or Cortez, especially for those commuting to work in Telluride. The mountain views are more than incredible, especially when the aspens go yellow in the fall. The San Miguel River is roaring nearby, and the gorgeous Ilium Valley, a haven for fishing and almost anything small that floats, is always beckoning to the south. But more than anything else, it’s conceivable that housing could be built close enough to Telluride and the Mountain Village that living there would make economic and “green” sense for service-industry workers and their families.
“This is a potential direction to change how many housing units can be brought into the community,” said Greenspan. “There’s the broad view of the river, the fall colors. Yes, it is adjacent to light industrial uses, but there is potential for buffering there.”
What San Miguel County planning staff and the commissioners are wondering, as Planning Director Mike Rozycki stated in his memo for the exploratory meeting: “…how and why it makes sense to develop affordable housing in an industrial area both in terms of compatibility and quality for residents and the potential that residents will object to the existing and allowed industrial uses on the adjoining Industrial zoned properties.”
But the initiators of this private development effort, including Bruce Wright of One Architects, believe if they can get the density increased – which by itself would require a change in the county’s land use code – to a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 65 units, all designed and built to green standards, then the whole idea could fly, in terms of both the cost-effectiveness to the builders and translated savings to deed-restricted buyers.
“We found it works from a feasibility standpoint,” Wright said. “It’s not too crazy to build on at all.”
But the commissioners still have big questions. In addition to the need for new language in the land use code that could be a model for this and other affordable housing projects within the county, there are concerns about water and sewer treatment capacity, as well as traffic impacts, and how it might work from a public transportation standpoint. Commissioner Art Goodtimes said he would want to see a pre-school associated with the project, and a play area, as well.
And at the bottom line: Can it meet all of these demands and still reach its stated goal of being affordable at an “entry level”?
“The most attractive thing about it is that it would be entry level housing,” said Commissioner Joan May. “We have to be able to figure out a way to keep it that way.”
The meeting ended with Goodtimes endorsing it as a public-private partnership effort, saying, “It’s going to be a long process, let’s try and see if we can work through this.”
Is there a happy place where tricycles for tykes, big trucks and walls lined with concertina wire can all get along? That question will remain as it moves through the process.
“As much as we need housing, who is it that would want to live like that?” asked May.