Discussion about Silver Creek Village Center’s affordable housing continues
County and applicant disagree on building schedule
Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, says he is optimistic the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission will approve a request to build more than 150 affordable housing units within the next few years.
However, he quickly added, “You never know with these type of things.”
Last week, the planning commission held a public hearing about a request to amend the Silver Creek Village Center’s development agreement to remove the requirement that workforce housing units be integrated throughout the development. The applicant is also requesting an amendment to change the height allowance on a parcel slated for affordable apartments from 32 feet to 36 feet.
Loomis and Matt Lowe, president of the Silver Creek Village Center’s development group, had worked out an agreement for 165 of the affordable units to be built within the next couple of years. The homes would be located on three parcels along the main spinal road, with access to utilities and bus routes.
In a planning department report prepared before the Aug. 8 meeting, staff issued a negative recommendation for the request, citing concerns about design and integration. No decision was made following the Aug. 8 hearing and it was continued to Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 4:30 p.m. in the Sheldon Richins building. Commissioners Chuck Klingenstein and Canice Harte were not present.
“My goal was to just present the facts and not be adversarial,” Loomis said. “We had a meeting on Friday with staff and the architects and they seem to be more favorable toward the design in its present state. But, I have no way of knowing whether this will get approved.
“I hope everyone is still on board with what we want to do. A bird in the hand is worth more than getting it over the next 10 years or so. I’m optimistic, but it’s still up in the air,” he said.
Loomis said more than 20 people spoke in favor of amending the agreement, while one person opposed the request. He said commissioners wanted more information about the design and need for these particular units before reaching a decision.
The county first received an application for Silver Creek in the late 1990s. It received final approvals from the Summit County Council in June, 2015 for 1,290 residential units, including the 330 affordable units, and 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
Bea Peck, a planning commissioner who was a member of the design and review committee for the Silver Creek Village Center, said the original plan’s intent was for the affordable housing to be interspersed throughout the project.
“What was supposed to be interspersed throughout this project was apartments, townhomes, condominiums and single-family homes,” Peck said. “There are affordable housing projects in the pipeline for the community that would be coming online at the same time that this front-loaded proposal would be. I wanted to be clear what the exact need is for this. We all know that there is a need, but how does that break down?”
Peck said she is not disagreeing with Loomis about the need for apartments. However, she said she is trying to balance the commission’s commitment to diversity against the need for affordable housing.
“What is the balance if there is such a crushing, overriding need for one type of housing that would tip the scale for giving up diversity? That, to me, is the real crux of it,” Peck said. “What is unique about this segment of the overall need for affordable housing that would compel us to undo the diversity component that we have insisted on with all of the developments in the county? We have hammered other developers pretty hard to make them go back and redesign over and over to meet the integration need. We have to find something that really tips the scale and if there is a good reason to do this, let’s flesh it out and hear what it is. But, I need something more than anecdotal because we all recognize that there is need.”
Once the planning commission makes a recommendation, the matter will go before the Summit County Council for a final decision.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.