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The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) approved a resolution during their Sept. 1 regular meeting for the High Country Village Major Subdivision Planned Development in Johnson Village. Following that approval, Commissioner Keith Baker made the motion to refund the development fees for the project ($200 plus $1,700) because the project meets a county need: creating much-needed affordable housing for Chaffee County.

HIgh Country Manufactured Home development

This aerial shot of the High Country Village Major Subdivision Planned Development shows its location in Johnson Village.

The approval followed a meeting process that has stretched out months due in part ot COVID-19, as well as a plan unlike any approved in recent memory. The private project will allow for a planned development of lots with manufactured homes, with those lots owned by the property owners of the manufactured homes on the lots. The applicants, Melvin and Louise Swisher, say their goal for the commercially-zoned property has been to help provide affordable housing for Chaffee County.

The project was developed as what it became in part due to this challenge: lenders will not issue mortgages on manufactured/modular homes that are not on land owned by the owner of that manufactured and modular home.

The approval allows the planned development a higher density than the underlying zoning would normally allow (6.1 units/acre as opposed to 4 units/acre). The property is 3.75 acres in size and a total of twenty-three (23) lots have been created.

Access to the lots is from CR 313 and CR 314. The majority of the infrastructure has already been put in place in place; paved access roads, underground utilities, sidewalks, sewer connection and augmented well. Additional infrastructure will be installed after the first five units are sold (central water treatment system, park development, and Phase 2).

The applicants are not requesting any additional changes or modifications to the approved Resolution 2017-36. Currently, five (5) manufactured home units have been installed on the property (with Certificates of Occupancy issued in May 2020), which with the BoCC approval will transfer to the new property owners.

The approval came with some criticism from Joe DeLuca of the Crabtree Group, who was there representing the Swishers. “This is a pretty messed up system – there have been months of reviews … the resolution is not going to change the plat, and if it does then we make those changes.”

County Asst. Attorney Daniel Tom reminded DeLuca that there is a planned development agreement that is required by the county’s land-use code and that a homeowner’s association still needs to be established because the covenant requires it. “I agree with a lot of these items … the improvements have been done, but documentation is necessary for this development to go forward,” he pointed out.

Commissioner Greg Felt agreed, but said, “This seems like somewhat of a unique situation with this particular application. Maybe we could have been simultaneous and not serially proceeded [in reviewing it for approval] – but we could agree they could sell the [five] units that are ready.” He suggested and was told it was possible for the applicants to meet with the County Development office to hammer out the final details including the deed restrictions on these lots.

Dennis Giese, speaking on behalf of the Swishers added, “These units per square foot are cheaper than the Chaffee County average per housing unit. This is all private money. The Swisher are sitting here with an investment of $1.2 million. They could have left that property because it is commercial and some construction company could be in there, and it could have become a truck terminal. Yet they stuck their money out front, and they have suffered through numerous months of delays, some unavoidable, some today.”

The vote on the resolution approving the major development was unanimous. The vote to approve refunding the development fees passed two to one, with Felt opposing the refund.