Delays caused by extensive neighborhood opposition have resulted in the demise of a development project that would have created 72 family housing units in the Rockrimmon area northwest of downtown -- 43 of them desperately needed housing units for low- to middle-income families.
Rockrimmon Vista was the joint endeavor of nonprofit Greccio Housing and Ohio-based Concorde Capital Corporation, a development company with an extensive history of partnerships with nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing.
The 27-acre site of the project, however, is riddled with expansive soils, landslide susceptible terrain, environmental difficulties and unresolved drainage and wetland issues that resulted in considerable opposition to the project on the part of public safety advocates and a coalition of 10 surrounding homeowner associations.
Greccio founder and CEO Claudia Deats insists, however, that project opponents were motivated less by concerns for public safety than by a classic case of NIMBY-ism rooted in "an anti-affordable housing agenda."
According to Deats, 43 of the 72 apartment units would have been inhabited by people with incomes of 40 to 60 percent the area median -- i.e. between $20,500 and $30,800.
"That," she said, "is the salary range of entry-level teachers, police officers, fire fighters and service industry workers. They can't afford the average rent of an apartment in Colorado Springs. This project would have eased their predicament."
Joe Recchie, chief executive officer of Concorde Capital, said that his company plans to move forward with Rockrimmon Vista -- despite the loss of its affordable housing component.
Deats said that their portion was contingent on the aid of $4.8 million in federal tax credits awarded by a Colorado Housing Finance Authority program to facilitate affordable housing. But the housing authority's deadline to complete the project was December 31 -- an impossible deadline this late in the year.
"We went through all the planning pieces appropriately and complied with everything the City asked of us," Deats said. "We got the unanimous approval of City Council in October of last year, and we were ready to go.
"The neighbors, however, did everything in their power to put roadblocks in our path."
The straw that finally broke the project's back, says Deats, was discovery by project opponents of a one-acre wetland on the property that isn't shown on Army Corps of Engineers maps of the site. The revelation caused the Corps to put the project on hold until mitigation guidelines are devised.
"Those guidelines will be issued any day now, but it's too late for us to meet the December 31 deadline," Deats says. "We've turned the tax credits back in so that they can be used for an affordable housing project somewhere else in Colorado. That's a shame, because they're desperately needed in Colorado Springs."
What most embitters Deats is that 72 apartment units will still be built on the same site. "They'll look exactly the same and be exactly the same quality of construction," she said. "The only difference will be that all of them will rent at market rates."
Jan Doran, president of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) and a board member of the Discovery Homeowner's Association in the Rockrimmon neighborhood, took issue with Deats' assessment.
"She's saying that this is a NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] thing, but that's not true," Doran said. "This isn't about affordable housing. It's about protecting the neighborhood from unsafe and irresponsible development."
Greccio, however, is forging ahead with plans to build an 82-unit senior housing project adjacent to the ill-fated family housing project that will have 50 affordable housing units.
According to Deats, this component of the project is on a different timetable than the family component, with a completion deadline of December 31, 2003.