Housing nears completion
March 25, 2006
When Mountainlands Community Housing Trust hands over the keys to the first owners in its Deer Valley Drive affordable-housing complex, it will be almost three years since the non-profit broke ground at the site.
Gretchen Amerongen, who now lives in Old Town, plans to move into a two-bedroom unit there quickly. Amerongen, who works in conference sales at a resort, signed up to purchase a condominium when they were first marketed.
"The first day I’m able to, that’s my plan," she said, adding that she cannot afford to purchase a home in Park City given the city’s real-estate prices.
Without the project, she would have stayed in Park City but she said a house purchase would have been difficult.
"I think the market here is predominantly owned by people who don’t live here and they drive the (prices) up," she said.
Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands, said this week that he expects that the first units in the project will be completed within three weeks, more than two years after he had wanted to be done.
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But the project was beset with problems, including a highly publicized stop-work order from City Hall that halted construction for about six weeks midway through the work. The relationship between Mountainlands and the local government, normally cordial, was strained as the delays on the project, 555 Deer Valley Drive, mounted.
Loomis said this week that Mountainlands hopes crews are able to mostly finish eight units that face Deer Valley Drive within three weeks. Once they progress to that point, Loomis said, people will be able to move in.
He said he wants to be finished with the project, meaning occupancy in all the units, by the end of May.
"It’s just been one thing after another on that project," Loomis said.
The delays, however, have forced Mountainlands to substantially increase the prices in the project, known as the Line Condominiums.
The sale price for one-bedrooms range from $99,000 to $135,0000 and the two-bedrooms are priced at between $152,000 and $194,000. When Mountainlands broke ground, Loomis planned to sell the smaller units for between $60,000 and $80,000 and the bigger ones for between $90,000 and $130,000.
"Construction costs have gone up considerably. Time is money," he said.
Loomis said Mountainlands originally budgeted $2.3 million for construction but the final price tag is expected to be about $3.1 million, a 35 percent increase.
The project entails 20 new condominiums and two houses, replicated from two homes that were on the property when the crews started.
Loomis said 15 of the original 22 people who qualified to purchase units remain interested. He said 24 are on a waiting list to buy.
Ron Ivie, City Hall’s chief building official, said he met with Loomis on Wednesday to discuss what is known as a temporary certificate of occupancy for the Deer Valley Drive-facing condominiums. He said he could not predict if his department would allow the units to be occupied on the three-week timeline outlined by Loomis.
"There’s nobody here who would not like to see it finished," Ivie said.
Ivie refused to forecast when the condominiums on the back side of the project will receive occupancy permits.
Ivie said the Building Department assigned an inspector to the Mountainlands project and said that inspector will be at the site for between 30 minutes and an hour every other day. The inspector started his assignment about a week ago, Ivie said.
The project, one of the most ambitious affordable-housing developments in the city limits in a decade, has challenged Mountainlands since before the June 2003 groundbreaking. When the work started, Loomis predicted that the project would be finished in about six months.
The Planning Commission approved the project, but, in a rare appeal, a neighbor forced the City Council to consider the development as well. The elected officials agreed with the Planning Commission approval.
Before that, the Park City School District objected to the project, suggesting that Mountainlands make a financial donation to offset the costs of students who may live in the condominiums. That request was later withdrawn as the projected number of students who might reside in the project was downgraded.
Mountainlands is dedicated to providing housing to people otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate prices. Those supporting Mountainlands and others providing affordable housing restricted to people who qualify financially say that Park City is better off if people of differing incomes can afford to live locally. That, they say, provides diversity and allows rank-and-file workers to live nearby their employers.
Mayor Dana Williams is a longtime affordable-housing champion but has had concerns about the delays and especially the price increases at the Line Condominiums. He is pleased that the crews seem to be nearing completion.
"I’ve been encouraged to see the front buildings are just about ready to occupy," Williams said. "I don’t think it’s as frustrating for me as it was for people who had the units under contract."
However, given the more expensive prices, Williams labels the project "moderate income" housing. He is unsure if people who qualified to purchase a unit at the initial cost could afford the final price.
He said the project will ensure Park City has people of varying incomes, which he said is "the most charming part of our town."
"Any time we get one more unit added to (the city), it helps maintain the economic diversity in our town," Williams said, adding, "It’s the community that keeps me here."