Commission gives green light to 98 residential apartments

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    The Pagosa Springs Planning Commission reviewed a density bonus request for the Pagosa Inn and Suites Residential Apartment Conversion on Tuesday evening.  

    “The project team is confident this project will make a positive contribution to the Pagosa Springs community and meet the goals of existing planning documents,” reads agenda documentation.

    The town adopted a “Density Bonus policy” in April in order to stimulate the available housing supply, stating that units must be reserved for local workforce.

    The policy accomplished a big step toward its goal to generate desperately needed workforce housing with the application made by Pagosa Inn and Suites.

    The property is located conveniently near area trails, shopping and transit for our local workforce.

    “Located at 519 Village Drive, the existing Inn is a 95-room motel which will be converted to approximately 98 residential apartments. The conversion process incorporates substantial upgrades in order to convert hospitality to residential use. The resulting, for rent, workforce residences will all have kitchens. Reconfiguring rooms/walls where possible will create various sizes of studio, 1, 2 & 3 bedroom units. In addition to meeting or exceeding all ADA requirements, the project aims to add resident amenities such as storage units, co-working space, an indoor mailroom and bicycle storage,” documentation states.

    Exterior improvements are also planned for the facility; however, the building will not be expanded in size.

    Agenda documentation notes that the density bonus policy “requires 25% of the total units be deed restricted for income levels up to 120% of Area Median Income (AMI) determined annually by Colorado Housing Financing Authority (CHFA) for a minimum period of 7 years. 25% of the total units equates to 24.5 units, rounded up to 25 deed restricted dwelling units.”

    All of the units will be available for long-term workforce rentals.

    And the added bonus is that some units could be ready as early as 2022 for occupancy.

    This is the type of action to create housing that we need in Pagosa Springs, and we desperately need these additional 98 residential apartments.

    The project would include 21 studio units, 62 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom units, and four three-bedroom units. Units that are less than 400 square feet will include access to “a secure personal storage closet at a minimum of 200 cubic feet in size.”

    Amenities on the property will include a fitness room, bike cleaning and maintenance station, outside sitting area with BBQs and garden area.

    The applicant even mentioned that there is the possibility that small- to medium-size dogs will be allowed on the ground-floor level.

    “I applaud you guys. Thank God you’re stepping up to do something for affordable housing. Thank you very much,” said planning commissioner Peter Adams before making a recommendation for the town council to grant the density bonus for the project. His motion was approved unanimously and enthusiastically by the commission.

    Further discussion noted that two recent changes to the density bonus and the decrease in the minimum dwelling unit size have incentivized the private sector to come forward and create more workforce housing than anything the commission has done toward that effort since some members joined the commission. 

    It was also discussed that the city of Durango is currently considering the purchase of the Best Western Inn & Suites to convert and use for affordable housing. The price tag on that building is $7 million. It’s nice to see the private sector taking that action in Pagosa Springs.

    Hats are off to property owners Chester and Margaret Pajak, and project applicants Eric Boogaard and Stuart Sloat for putting forth this project.

    At a time when so many of our long-term housing options are being converted to short-term rentals in our community, it is a breath of fresh air to find someone wanting to convert short-term lodging units into long-term residential units for the benefit of the community’s workforce.

    Town council will consider the planning commission’s recommendation to grant the 50 percent density bonus from 66 to 98 dwelling units for the Pagosa Inn and Suites at the council’s meeting on Sept. 7.

    This is one application that deserves full support.

    Terri Lynn Oldham House

    terri@pagosasun.com