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Fraser works to define workforce housing

Fraser introduced its deed restriction program, which will limit who can live or buy a deed-restricted property to Fraser Valley workforce.
Bryce Martin / bmartin@skyhinews.com

The Fraser Board of Trustees is trying to shape what their deed restriction program will look like, but there is a lot to consider.

The town is working to define what workforce housing means in a community closely tied to others like Winter Park, Tabernash and Grand County as a whole. It demands definitions of where the housing and the employment might be allowed for this program.

The board previously introduced a workforce housing initiative modeled after Vail’s InDeed program. The program would allow Fraser to offer private property owners money in exchange for restricting the sale or rental of the property to people who work in the community full-time.

According to Town Manager Jeff Durbin’s update to the board, there are four financial institutions interested in working with the program. The documents presented to the town board Tuesday will see more work before being finalized.

Durbin presented options for eligibility criteria to help the board decide what “workforce housing” means. In previous discussions and in this one, the board tried to decide whom this deed restriction program would serve.

“Maybe it’s helpful to try to think, ‘What are you trying to accomplish?’” Durbin said. “What’s the mission here? That may help answer the questions about property location or employment location.”

Some trustees expressed interest in keeping options open, but placing a preference on properties and residents working in locations based in or around Fraser.

Trustees also brought up whether a remote worker would qualify as part of the Fraser workforce. Trustee Andy Miller argued that even if the wage were not earned in town, the resident would still be contributing to Fraser through their spending in town.

“To me that’s a person that we would value as equally as anybody else because they’re probably bringing a better wage in,” Miller said.

Other trustees disagreed, pointing to the shortage of frontline workers that they hoped the deed restrictions would address.

“Is that person local workforce though?” Trustee Ryan Barwick countered. “Is the goal of this to house our local workforce or is it to attract remote workers?”

As for where the property could be purchased, the town board seemed to agree that it should be focused in the Upper Fraser Valley — though that would need to be defined further. Employment in Fraser was more contested, as some trustees felt that employment at places throughout the county like the high school or the court house were still necessary even if not based in Fraser.

Many “what ifs” were raised, like what if the resident was working in Fraser but found a better job outside the specified range? What if the worker retires or is no longer able to work due to a disability? The town manager agreed there would need to be clauses for relocation and such circumstances.

Another issue raised was the limited funds available. The town has $500,000 budgeted for purchasing deed restrictions, though quite a few people have expressed interest in the program.

The town manger encouraged the board to start small due to these limited funds. However, it might also be possible to allow for concessions if an exceptionally valuable workforce housing opportunity becomes available.

The town board would not be responsible for reviewing applications and would instead give direction to the Economic Development Advisory Committee. Minus any elected officials serving on EDAC, it would act at the Fraser Housing Authority.

Tuesday was also the first public hearing to create the Fraser Housing Authority. Some tweaks were needed here as well, so the hearing was continued.

The discussion around the deed restriction program was moved to a later date, hopefully to a workshop with members of EDAC to hash out the needed definitions.

In other business:

  • The trustees approved an ordinance amending town code to allow utility terrain vehicles on Fraser’s streets. The UTVs must have four wheels in contact with the ground, a steering wheel, foot petals for braking and acceleration, and seat belts among other requirements. For more information, refer to the town code.
  • The board continued a discussion on the East Grand Fire District’s proposed 2020 impact fees. The fees would be raised from $438 to $632 for any residence, but board members expressed concern that this would disproportionately burden low-income homeowners. They moved the discussion to see if the fees could be allocated on a more “equitable” basis.
  • The town trustees approved an ordinance allowing the removal of commission and committee members if too many absences are accumulated. The board cited absenteeism as a continuing problem that has led to a lack of quorums. Somewhat related, the board looked at adopting a potential policy for remote meeting participation in a limited capacity.

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