Talisker to turn failed project into affordable housing
November 6, 2009
Black Rock Ridge is a large-scale, multi-unit development in Wasatch County started by Trophy Homes and Iroquois Partners at the mouth of Brown’s Canyon just off S.R. 248. After the developers were foreclosed upon earlier this year, Talisker Corporation in late September purchased 26 completed units and plans to sell 17 of them as affordable housing.
One of the existing owners says it isn’t fair.
"They’ve taken a high-end development and turned it into low-income housing. Are we happy about it? No, we’re not," said Paul Schnieders.
The purchase is also raising some eyebrows on how Wasatch-County real estate can satisfy Summit County housing requirements.
Nine of the 26 units are almost-completed town homes that a representative for Talisker says will be sold at fair market value.
The representative, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley, also said the acquisition is part of a larger affordable-housing package that includes 20 acres of "critical land" at Quinn’s Junction, 10 units on Marsac Avenue and the 17 condominiums at Black Rock Ridge.
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The condominiums are uncompleted and won’t be ready for purchase until the spring, she said via email.
But those 26 units are all Talisker purchased not the entire development, which still sits mostly vacant.
That irks full-time resident Schnieders, who says he was the first to buy into Black Rock Ridge in December of 2007.
That was at the height of the real-estate boom and the beginning of the nation’s longest recession. It was downhill from there.
The builder Trophy Homes left the project last spring and Washington Trust Bank out of American Fork foreclosed on the land and unsold units, he said.
No one from Washington Trust Bank responded to a request for an interview.
Last summer the five owners formed their own homeowner association. Not long after they had a teleconference with Talisker about the new plans.
According to Schnieders, the developer left without installing any landscaping (let alone cleaning up much of the construction waste still lying in piles), making sure the streetlamps work (only about four do), paying the water and sewer company (each owner was sent a $2,500 bill with that much owed again over two years) or building any of the amenities including the 4,000-square-foot club house and pool.
But if that wasn’t bad enough, now another company has moved in to sell the neighboring units for 30 to 50 percent less than what he paid, Schnieders said.
Real estate documents left in the now vacated sales office on site revealed that most units were selling for between $363,000 to $626,000 as of August 2008. Roskelley said the nine town homes will be sold at fair market value and the 17 condominiums for between $200,000 and $240,000.
For right now, Schnieders said he’s enjoying the solitude a failed development provides, but as a homeowner he’s still part owner of the project once it’s completed and is concerned for its future.
"I certainly don’t want this to be used for employee housing," he said.
Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, said his understanding is the city accepted Talisker’s Wasatch County acquisition as compliance with its demands for Talisker to create affordable housing in exchange for its permit to build in Empire Pass.
He believes the units will first be offered up to Talisker employees, and then made public in accordance with Fair Housing regulations. His understanding of the agreement between Talisker and the city is that buyers must make 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.
Phyllis Robinson with Park City Municipal said the City Council can accept existing units in satisfaction of affordable housing requirements, and that the housing does not need to be within city limits. An added perk of this scenario is that the 17 condos are only months away from habitation. The Quinn’s Junction development, which will satisfy the bulk of Talisker’s obligation, will take years to be on line, she said.
Mike Davis, Wasatch County manager, was contacted Thursday regarding Schnieders’s complaints about the neighborhood. Davis said no one has contacted him directly, but said he sent someone to examine the street lights that afternoon.
"The developer (Trophy Homes and Iroquois Partners) is in default to the county on many issues. The county has placed leans on the development and does have some warranty bonds in place that we may need to go after," he said via email. "I only want to help."