The developer of The Corner at Brush Creek has reduced the project's proposed density and increased the number of affordable units reserved for lower income ranges. But Gatesco owner Gary Gates said last week he’s not budging on the project’s planned 240 units.

Gatesco, the Houstonbased company proposing the development on a 14.29-acre parcel at the intersection of Hwy. 135 and Brush Creek Road, has filed a formal landuse change application with Gunnison County. A majority of the development is planned to be deed restricted for residents making 180 percent or less that the area median income (AMI).

Gunnison County Planning Commission is currently reviewing the proposal. Yet, opponents have criticized the project for its density and lack of affordability, among other reasons.

On Friday, a joint work session between Planning Commission and Gunnison County Commissioners was held. Gatesco presented a modified plan which reduces the population density of the development by 10 percent and more than doubles the number of units reserved for those making 50 percent AMI or less.

While the number of total units remains the same, the number of bedrooms would decrease from 408 to 362. The developer estimates 1.5 people per bedroom, bringing the estimated population of the development down from 612 to

543.

Additionally, changes have been made to the number of deed-restricted units available under a tiered system, based on residents' AMI. The number of units reserved for those making 50 percent AMI has increased from 16 to 40, while the number of units available to those making less than 80 percent AMI has gone from 58 to 60. The tiers are cumulative, favoring lower incomes. In other words, someone making 50 percent AMI or less qualifies for each tier above it — 80, 120 and 180 percent or less AMI.

"We're trying to be responsive to the concerns we've heard about the overall density on this parcel while at the same time ensuring we have a viable project," said Project Manager John O'Neal.

Other changes include a decrease in the number of buildings from 32 to 28 and an increase of the setback for buildings along Brush Creek Road from 30 to 45 feet. Building square footage will be reduced by 10 percent, and parking spaces will be increased to 475 — comprised of 400 residential spaces and 75 transit center parking spots.

 

Why 240 units?

Gates also answered the question posed by Planning Commissioner A.J. Cattles at the previous meeting: Why must the project consist of 240 units?

Gates offered that the cost for the development totals $44 million, while the maximum loan he can obtain will only pay for $27 million. The 30-year loan would carry an interest rate of 5.25 percent. Gates said he intends to provide $17 million of his own money for the project.

He calculated his return on equity — revenue on 95 percent occupancy, less debt service and operating expenses — at about $358,000, or a little more than 2 percent.

"I can buy treasury bonds and get that much," said Gates, who explained his return decreases with fewer units. "It doesn't work any other way. The math does not work. I've got to have 240 units."

Gunnison County Commissioner John Messner noted public benefit from the development — not only in terms of adding affordable housing, but in that it provides a transit center for bus service. The transit center, he said, is identified in the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority strategic plan and would be provided by Gatesco.

Yet, Gates balked at the added expense of traffic costs. Traffic studies indicate improvements should be made to the existing intersection of Hwy. 135 and Brush Creek Road to reduce wait times during one particular turn. A left hand turn from Brush Creek onto the highway heading south has been given one of the lowest ratings based on wait time by the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT has also listed the intersection as a priority improvement for Gunnison County.

Messner opined that since other developments in the area have added to the traffic at the intersection, it would be unfair to expect the last development to bear the burden of improvements.

 

Opponents say project still not ‘compatible’

Still, opponents claim that although the project's density has been reduced, it is still not "compatible" with the neighboring area.

Brush Creek neighbor Laura Anderson questioned the financing that Gatesco is pursuing for the project, adding that Gates should reveal his proforma for the development. Others complained that the density of the development is being compared to other parts of the valley, not to the surrounding neighborhood itself.

Questions still to be answered by Gatesco include the length of leases offered for both deedrestricted and free-market units; how parking compares to other developments; and what the size of the buildings will look like in scale compared to the surrounding area.

A joint public hearing on The Corner at Brush Creek will be held Friday, Feb. 16 at Mountaineer Square in Mt. Crested Butte. A Planning Commission work session will be held prior to the beginning of the public hearing.

(Chris Rourke can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at chris.rourke@gunnisontimes.com.)