EVERGREEN — Plans for an affordable housing complex in Evergreen have residents near the project crying foul, and requesting the Jefferson County Commissioners delay the project until all concerns can be answered.
Evergreen residents Maria Faber and Danny Alkayam sent a letter last week to commissioners outlining their concerns, which include a warning of high levels of nitrates in an aquifer below the project, which whey fear will contaminate the soil.
They also say the Jefferson County Planning Department has ignored requests from Evergreen Trout Unlimited, Bear Creek Watershed Association and various Home Owners Associations neighboring the project for water studies as well as environmental studies they say are part of the Jeffco procedural process before approving new development.
“There are a variety of other studies to be that should have been conducted on the property, including a fire safety study, updated traffic and health services, that have been ignored,” Faber and Alkayam said in the letter.
At issue is a 50-plus unit, low-income housing complex, Vista El Rancho. The project sits near more expensive, market-priced housing subdivisions. It would be owned and operated by the Jefferson County Housing Authority, whose directors are appointed by the commissioners.
The Canyon Courier reported in May that rents would range between $1,012 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,408 for a three-bedroom apartment. Eligible tenants could not make more than $37,800 for a single person, $43,200 for two people, $48,600 for three people and $53,940 for four people.
Proponents say it will bring much needed affordable housing to the area, allowing people to live where they work.
However, opponents say the project is not driven by supply and demand but by political maneuvering and commissioners doling out favors in exchange for campaign donations.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, Metro Housing Coalition — a political association representing real estate interests, including low income housing developers — donated $2,500 each to Jefferson County Commissioners Libby Szabo and Casey Tighe.
Complete Colorado reached out to the commissioners for comment — exchanging voice mails — but was unable to connect before press time. There is a commission meeting scheduled for the project Tuesday.
Faber and Alkayam said the development is an abuse of power. County commissioners have executive, judicial and legislative powers. In this case, commissions changed the zoning to make way for the multi-family housing.
They believe at minimum, Szabo and Tighe should have recused themselves from the vote on the rezoning for conflict of interest. They also believe they should recuse themselves from the final vote on the project.
They say the county should not be involved in the real estate business.
“Pushback by concerned citizens is required to keep local governments in line with their responsibilities,” Faber and Alkayam said. “The way to remedy this situation is for the county commissioners to vote against approving this project. They will have learned a hard lesson in making certain to follow procedures for development projects that are already on their check list. They will also earn our respect and the respect of the voters if they do the right thing in this matter. They will be considered advocates for their constituents and their safety in doing this.”