Members of the Chaffee County Housing Policy Advisory Committee met Thursday with Wayne Freeman and Nora Bland of Cushing Terrell, the company that is compiling the county’s comprehensive plan, to talk about housing in the comprehensive plan.

County Commissioner Keith Baker thanked Cushing Terrell staff for the work they have been doing, saying, “Hats off to them for the amount of outreach they have done in the community.”

Baker said they have started working on a draft and have plans to meet with experts on energy, building development and economic development as they go forward.

Bland talked about the information they had gathered so far, through surveys and drop-in events.

“Housing is the No. 1 issue in the county, from everyone we’ve heard from,” Bland said.

She said that, from the information they had gathered about housing, people in Chaffee thought a lack of diversity in housing, and a lack of multifamily housing such as apartments and duplexes, were part of the problem.

From 413 respondents, they found that 26.5 percent, the top answer, think free-standing small homes were the type of housing most people would like to see in Chaffee County, Bland said.

When asked “what form of a dedicated local tax for housing would you be most likely to support?,” the two top answers, both 26 percent of 111 responses, were: “I do not support a dedicated tax for housing” and “development impact fees.”

Freeman spoke about the infrastructure studies that Cushing Terrell has done and said they found that high concentrations of wells and septic systems in the unincorporated part of the county were having negative impacts to water quality issues in the Arkansas Basin.

Baker said one of the items that needed to be addressed in the housing section of the comprehensive plan was discouraging large structures in rural and backcountry areas.

“We don’t want 12,000-square-foot trophy houses up against the national forest areas,” Baker said. “We need to encourage small, modular homes, so people can have their 800-square-foot retreat. Nobody is saying you can’t have a house up there, but a 12,000-square-foot home that is only lived in three weeks out of the year, with a heated driveway and all that, it isn’t what the county is about. We don’t want this. If they want those kinds of houses, they can go to Big Sky, Montana, and hobnob with Hollywood producers there.”

Freeman said they are working on a backcountry code for the comprehensive plan to discourage that kind of growth.

Becky Gray, county housing director, suggested having a variable development fee structure, based on the size of the home being built.

“I suggest you jack up your development fees across the board,” Freeman said, “to create a wider delta, which would make it easier to scale.”

Baker also said the county needed to do more to encourage increased density around the existing municipalities and encourage future annexation of said municipalities.

“We need to keep the cities cities and the county county,” Baker said.

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