County Commissioners Comment on Proposed Development in Illium Valley
by Jesse James McTigue
Oct 13, 2011 | 1280 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lifton Zoline International, LLC went before the San Miguel County Commissioners last Wednesday to get initial responses from the BOCC regarding a proposed development of the Saint Barnabas Church Camp, an area many know as the Ilium Church Camp, and surrounding land east and west of the San Miguel River.

The proposal calls for a non-profit campus, which would include meeting and lodging facilities for non-profit events and conferences, a museum to celebrate both the history of the Galloping Goose railroad and the Ilium power plant, an ecology center, and community affordable housing.

In order for the Lifton Zoline proposal to make sense, the county and Lifton Zoline International would have to work together in a land trade and rezoning effort. According to John Lifton Zoline, the land in question “is a mess” because “it’s chopped up into a lot of noncontiguous pieces.”

Lifton Zoline is proposing a land trade that would create a new ownership parcel for an affordable housing area west of the river. This would allow an easement for land east of the river to be incorporated in the non-profit campus. The county land to be considered in the trade is 6.23 acres, on both sides of the river.

Secondly, for the proposed development to move forward, the consolidated land parcels would need to be rezoned from Forestry (and) Agriculture to Open to Affordable Housing Planned Unit Development (AHPUD) and Public (PUB), respectively.

Lifton Zoline International has not yet bought the property in question and has not submitted a Land Use or Rezoning application to the county. First, the prospective buyers thought it necessary to assess the possibilities for development on the land. At the County Commissioner’s meeting, Planning Director Michael Rozycki stated the purpose of the session was to hear the proposal, and see if the county was willing to work collaboratively on it.

Overall, the County Commissioners were impressed by, and supportive of, the proposed non-profit campus, power and railroad history museum and ecology center on the east side of the river, but critical of the proposed affordable housing development on the west side.

County Commissioner Elaine Fischer enumerated some of the foreseeable obstacles pertaining to an affordable housing initiative in the Ilium location, citing the lack of public transportation to the proposed site as the biggest obstacle.

“Respectfully, I don’t think this is an appropriate place for affordable housing now,” Fischer said. “It needs to be close to a transit corridor. People want affordable housing that is closer to the economic core and that has access to the transit corridor.”

Pamela Lifton Zoline disagreed.

“With great respect, we don’t agree with all of the issues that the staff comes up with,” she said. “We don’t have so many pieces of land in the region that we can choose the perfect unbuckling of the situation. You need to trust (those of) us (who)…work in the private sector not to build something for which there is no market.”

The Lifton Zolines have been proponents of affordable housing and the idea of an educational, or non-profit center, for over 25 years. John mentioned that they had tried to do an affordable housing project in the Pathfinder area near San Bernardo, but were unable to make it work; they are excited to find another opportunity.

In the development scenario concerning the Ilium Church Camp, the Lifton Zolines stated that they would be willing to develop the campus facility, then work with the county to find an alternative site for the affordable housing project.

John Lifton Zoline concluded by summarizing that the project would happen in two stages. An initial land trade would allow for the eastern campus to happen. Later, the county and Lifton Zoline International would have to revisit the west side and work out a suitable site for affordable housing.

“It seems we have endorsement from the board in terms of a campus facility,” John Lifton Zoline said. “If we are to step away from the affordable housing, we would appreciate instruction from staff (in finding) an alternative site.”

“In an ideal world, affordable housing would be close to the core,“ he said, “but it is really hard to do affordable housing.”

All parties seemed to respectfully agree, at least with that statement.

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