300 more houses in Pinedale in 3 years?
City and County officials discuss the issue of affordable workforce housing in Sublette County
April 7, 2006
On Thursday, April 6, the Town of Pinedale hosted a special meeting with Cheyenne housing developer, Kevin Keller of IGC Management, to discuss further possibilities for putting in a large-scale, entry level workforce housing development in Pinedale. Keller had been one of the guest speakers at the March 16th Sublette County Housing Conference in Pinedale.
Kellerís construction company specializes in building "cookie cutter" type homes in large-scale developments. Because they build the same floor plan and donít vary the construction and material requirements, and put homes closely together at medium to high density spacing, they are able to build homes very quickly and keep the cost per home low. With this method, IGC Management can put in 300 homes on 40 acres. They specialize in "twin homes", which look like duplexes on 3500 square foot lots. They are actually two separate two-story homes joined side-by-side with a one-inch air space.
Each side has 1,475 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths, a 2-car garage and 2-car driveway, all appliances (refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer, garbage disposal, hot water heater, dishwasher), carpeting and curtains on the windows. The units have fenced in back yards and are completely landscaped. The homes are completely "turn-key" and ready to move in. The developments are also complete with paved roads, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Keller told the group his homes in these kinds of developments typically sell faster than they can build them because of the huge need for this kind of housing.
The company works very closely with the town and neighbors to try and fit the new housing development into the neighborhood. If communities want special areas for childrenís parks, commons areas or winter snow-removal storage locations, the company plans those into the overall neighborhood design as well. Keller stresses, however, that the purpose of these developments is to create entry-level, medium to high density housing, so by nature they are located where they can hook up to city water and sewer services and they involve closely spaced housing.
The homes are made to be as maintenance-free as possible, with quality roofs, vinyl siding, good insulation, no-maintenance windows and back-yard privacy fences. The homes in these neighborhoods are designed to blend together as an overall unit, with little variation in the outside appearance or colors. The standardization of the units and neighborhoods is the key to allowing the builders to put the homes up quickly and very economically. Homes can be built in 3 months. IGC Management currently has similar housing developments in Cheyenne, Gilette and Rock Springs. He accomplishes these subdivisions with no private or government subsidies.
Because their company can put in many homes very quickly, they significantly change the size and character of the towns they go in. As a result, he is often faced with public opposition from next-door neighbors who do not want the growth next to their own homes changing the character of their neighborhood. He calls that phenomenon, "opposition from the NIMBYíS", Not in My Back Yard vocal opponents. These are people who moved into neighborhoods just outside of town to get their 1-5 acre lots, and then want the door to close so the open spaces around them never changes from the way it was when they bought their homes. The NIMBYs are often very vocal at planning and zoning public meetings claiming the new developments will destroy their property values and create traffic, noise and crime problems.
These kinds of developments require a cooperative effort with the local town council, County planning & zoning and county commissioners and often involve variances to get past local zoning restrictions and streamline the permitting process. Developments near town services need to have annexation issues resolved to address the issues of access to city services and the cost of expansion. Keller says his company tries to work very closely with the local community and planners to address the needs and concerns of the local area.
Approximately 25 people attended the meeting at the Town Hall in Pinedale on Thursday, including city and county planners, local business owners, real estate agents, PAWG group members and concerned citizens. More meetings are planned to further investigate this option. IGC Management is looking at the county and local property prices to investigate possible suitable locations and the financial feasibility for such a development in both Pinedale and the Big Piney/Marbleton areas.
The population of Sublette County is expected to triple in the next 20 years. According to the 2000 census, 24% of the homes in the county are currently 2nd homes for non-permanent residents. The average sale price for a single-family home in the county in 2004 was $244,000. Rentals are extremely scarce with long waiting lists. Rental costs are averaging $900-$1600/month. The estimated mean family annual income for Sublette County is $56,000. The current oil and gas boom in the county is projected to last another 10-20 years requiring a steady stream of workers in all segments of the community to fill jobs for industry, lodging, dining and all support service businesses in the area. City and county planners are very concerned with finding ways to provide entry-level housing to balance out the glut of expensive, high-end homes currently being built that are priced out of range for the young family on a starting income or minimum-wage worker that fills the service-related jobs in the community.
If the new developments proceed, north and south Sublette County could each see housing developments that provide 300 new, 3-bedrooms, turn-key entry-level housing units in 3-5 years that sell for around $145,000-$180,000 each.
Comments from the meeting:
- "One of the questions is whether or not Pinedale is ready to have a bunch of houses that look alike."
- "There is a huge demand (for housing) and almost no supply."
- "Where are you going to put it?"
- "The sell is, does the community believe they need housing?"
- "Will the elected officials of the city and county back something like this?"
- "We need the people who need the homes to stand up and say they need it."
- "The business people donít speak up in support of the need because they donít want to make their neighbors mad so they wonít patronize their businesses."
- "People wonít want to live in these twin homes."
- "People love them. They sell faster than we can build them."
- "You donít even have a house for your city planner."
- "Our own kids arenít able to live here because they canít afford a home here. If we want the community to continue to be a viable community, we need to deal with these issues."
- "Why arenít the school districts and sheriffís office providing a housing allowance for their workers?"
- "Change is pretty scary for Sublette County."
- "Itís not a matter of listening to who screams the loudest. The people who need the housing wonít be at these meetings, they are busy out working."
- "Are they ready to take a stand to make a decision when they get 50 letters saying, ĎNot next to me!í"
- "You have to understand what percent of the public you are listening to."
- "Unless we can get some help from the county and state with infrastructure, we canít afford it."
- "It has to be a partnership."