The Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) Board of Education unanimously approved a plan to expand its staff housing program by 30 to 60 new units in Carbondale. The proposal was presented by Jeff Gatlin, RFSD chief operating officer, at the regularly-scheduled board meeting on April 13 at the Carbondale District Offices. This board approval begins the process of implementing a roadmap to expand the staff housing program — a strategic initiative for the district for the 2022-23 school year.
The 2.7-acre plot in Carbondale, known as the Meadowood Site, is currently a vacant lot near North Face Park and Roaring Fork High School along Meadowood Drive.
Once developed, the site would include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, with a total estimated project cost of nearly $17.2 million for 40 units, or $22.9 million for 60 units.
The plan would be paid for by a combination of internal funds and Certificate of Participation (COP) financing. COPs are a financing tool that allows a school district to utilize a lease structure and borrow money to finance capital projects, without technically issuing long-term debt.
In 2015, RFSD voters approved a bond issue with an allocated $15 million dedicated to starting a staff rental housing program. Currently, the district’s inventory of rental housing units, from Basalt to Carbondale, is at 66 units. Twenty of those units are within Carbondale.
While the passage of the mill levy override ballot measure by district voters in November 2021 brought salary increases to district staff, the growing demand for and lack of affordable housing remains a problem for the district’s efforts to retain and recruit talent.
Gatlin’s memo to the board states, “As real estate conditions continue to experience tremendous scarcity and skyrocketing price increases locally, all of our communities are grappling with this challenge. While many discussions are taking place on local projects, there is not a viable plan that will provide housing to our staff in the near future. Meanwhile, internal demand continues to increase, making it critical that Roaring Fork Schools expand the current staff housing program.”
The district has set a goal of creating 100 more housing units to be added to the existing inventory of 66 units. While the plan is admittedly an ambitious one, the district understands the importance of exploring development options, using district-owned land in order to minimize development costs while addressing staff housing needs.
“The school district has performed a thorough examination of all district-owned parcels of land (through a land inventory and assessment) and has identified development opportunities that are prioritized based on numerous factors, though price, efficiency and scale were the main drivers,” Gatlin’s memo stated.
Gatlin said a finalized plan and funding proposal would be presented to the board for approval before construction begins this fall.
The Meadowood Site, a vacant lot near Roaring Fork High School, could house up to 60 units of RFSD housing depending on funding.
Photo by Raleigh Burleigh