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162-unit rental complex in Durango advances in city approval process

Further review to address community concerns, design issues for project on north Main Avenue

The third time might be the charm for a proposed apartment complex that would put more than 160 units on north Main Avenue in Durango.

The 7.07-acre site at 3801 Main Ave. has seen two other proposals since 2018, including one as recent as November 2020. Durango City Council moved an adapted plan for the complex, called Boxcar Landing, one step closer to approval Tuesday.

“I’ll just say the design has improved very much compared to what was originally put forward, which the Planning Commission did not support,” said Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Noseworthy. “It’s great to have the developer and the architects working together to come up with a design.”

Boxcar Landing includes 162 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a dog walking area, bike parking, open space and indoor amenities. The site, owned by Tracy Reynolds of Reynolds Ash and Associates, is next to the Hampton Inn and comes with steep topography dropping more than 70 feet.

“I want to speak generally in support of it and to note that rental housing is necessarily workforce housing. It’s not second homes,” said Lisa Bloomquist Palmer, executive director of the housing assistance nonprofit HomesFund, during a public comment period. “Generally, I think this is very much needed housing for people who are seeking to live and work in our community.”

In 2018, the city’s Planning Commission denied a 144-unit proposal, citing excessive mass and scale. In late 2020, Reynolds withdrew a redesigned project with 132 units after the City Council approved the conceptual development plan.

The adapted conceptual plan includes less parking and eliminates commercial space compared with the plan proposed in November 2020.

“This would’ve had more than 300 parking spaces. ... What makes this project viable is the city adopting parking standards that are more in line with what other communities have,” said Mark Williams, a city planner. The project now includes 191 parking spaces.

The city and developers are still working to address concerns expressed by some community members, such as increased traffic impacts on Main Avenue and water drainage into the Hampton Inn parking lot.

The significant slope also creates a challenge, requiring a rockfall hazard study. The complex must also include a barrier thick enough to stop rocks falling from Animas Mountain and tall enough to prevent them from bouncing over the wall.

The project will be reviewed in more detail by the city Design Review Board and during the preliminary plan stage of the approval process.

According to the current plan, all units will be priced at the market rate.

Mayor Kim Baxter said the city’s Fair Share Ordinance, a 2009 affordable housing policy, does not include provisions for rental housing. The ordinance requires developers to meet affordability commitments for homeownership units.

“If we keep waiting until we can redo our Fair Share plan, we’re going to miss out on a whole bunch of stuff,” said Baxter.

Both Baxter and Noseworthy suggested city staff members find a way to fast-track affordable housing requirements for rental housing.

Rent has escalated “drastically” in the last few years at new developments, like at some southeast of Durango around Three Springs, Baxter said.

“Our city can’t respond to that,” she said.

smullane@durangoherald.com

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