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A somewhat confusing situation arose at the January 7 joint meeting of the Poncha Springs Board of Trustees and the Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z), when it appeared as if the Board, acting on P & Z’s recommendation, was going to deny a minor zoning amendment that would allow construction of additional low-income housing at the DeAnza Vista Apartments. While acknowledging the need for more low-income housing, both the Board and P & Z objected to the design of the building. In the end, after discussion that resulted in the proposal of two one-story buildings instead of one two-story building, trustees voted to reject the motion that would have stymied the construction, and pass a second motion approving the zoning amendment based on the second design proposal.

William Simpson, DeAnza’s owner, said that he had secured financing through low-income tax credits not only to renovate the existing 30 apartments on the property, but also to build an additional 6-unit apartment building on a one-acre lot behind the complex’s community center. Since this lot had been designated as open space in the original PUD (Planned Unit Development) dating from 2002, the zoning amendment was required in order to allow the owner to build on it; paying a fee to the town to make up for loss of the open space. Simpson had also requested a variance from town code, which requires all parking spaces serving multi-family residences to be located within 50 feet of the building.

Simpson was supported at the public hearing by Becky Gray, Chaffee County Housing Director, who said that the DeAnza redevelopment, which had been approved to receive tax credits from the state, was part of the county’s strategic plan to provide more affordable housing. “I support this project,” she concluded, “and my office supports this project.”

Questions from P & Z and the Trustees focused on the location and layout of the proposed new building. P & Z member Dave Ward said that he was concerned about removal of the open space behind the community building: “Open space would be important for current tenants and new tenants – what’s the compensation for current tenants?” Simpson replied that space between the new building and other areas on the property would be developed with low-water sod and outdoor exercise stations.

Mayor Ben Scanga expressed concern about a two-story building being only six feet from the property line: “I feel like it’s adding too much building height in the area.”

Simpson outlined a plan for tree plantings and other measures, such as frosted windows on the upstairs units, to allow privacy between the new building and surrounding houses. Nevertheless, Trustee Thomas Moore declared: “That space is not appropriate for the building you want to put there.”

After closing the public hearing, Mayor Scanga proposed a motion to recommend denial of the zoning request, on the grounds that the design and location of the building did not conform to neighborhood standards. The motion was seconded by Ken Donovan, and passed unanimously.

When it came time for the Board to act on the recommendation, Moore made the motion to deny the zoning amendment. After it was seconded, Trustee Dean Edwards made a case for allowing the project to go forward. “I’d like to see us find a way to make this work…I’d like for us not to reject it outright, because the need (for affordable housing) exists.”

In response to Trustee Darryl Wilson’s call for alternatives, Simpson, and Joe DeLuca from the Crabtree Group, asked whether they could do three single-story units in two locations on the property. Mayor Scanga replied: “I think that would be much more desirable. If you’re OK with two one-story buildings, we can do the zoning change.”

The Board was then in the position of needing to amend the original motion. Scanga asked Moore if he was willing to amend the motion, but Moore refused. Scanga, noting that “if we vote to deny the zoning amendment, it stops the process,” had no choice at that point but to go ahead and call for a vote on the motion to deny the zoning amendment. This motion failed, with Moore being the only one voting in favor.

Dean Edwards then made a second motion to modify the plan to accommodate two separate buildings, limiting them to one story. This motion, to approve “six single-story units in two locations”, passed unanimously.

In other business, the two bodies held a second joint public hearing, which resulted in votes to recommend and approve a requested zoning change and preliminary plat for the Poncha Meadows development, located north of CR 128 and east of US Highway 285.