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Bayfield acts to address housing costs

Town begins plans to build affordable duplexes, examines reserving some for town employees
Bayfield Town Manager Katie Sickles, right, and Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington have initiated the planning process to develop 30 lots into affordable duplexes off Cinnamon Drive.

While there’s been a lot of talk about dealing with the lack of attainable housing in La Plata County, little action has actually been initiated to deal with the problem.

That’s not true in Bayfield, where the town has bought 30 lots on Cinnamon Drive, where it plans to build 15 duplexes on each side of the street, a project called Cinnamon Heights.

Plans are in the early stages, and Bayfield Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington and Town Manager Katie Sickles emphasized that scores of public meetings to involve the community, the Town Board and other interested parties still will come down the road.

The first meeting will be held June 28 on Zoom.

An architectural image of proposed duplexes the town of Bayfield is planning to develop to provide 60 units of attainable housing in town.

But right now, the guiding idea is to bring 30 residential units each priced around $275,000 to market several years down the road.

For 2020, the median-priced townhome in Bayfield was $331,500, according to the Durango Area Association of Realtors.

“Right now, the ideas are endless. We might want to reserve a few units for town employees. We want to talk with Bayfield School District, the county, the college, they might be interested in reserving units for young professors,” said h Tarkington.

Tarkington said she is fielding plenty of telephone calls from around the county from people who are inquiring about Cinnamon Heights.

La Plata County has proved popular since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic as urban residents across the country have begun looking to live in smaller towns and rural locales.

Bayfield is experiencing the same demand for housing that’s sending Durango’s housing prices sky high.

Sickles noted the seventh phase of the nearby Clover Meadows subdivision has 54 lots, and half have already been built out and occupied in the last year.

She said the average price for a house in Clover Meadows is about $400,000.

“It’s amazing to me how many houses have been completed and occupied in one year,” she said.

Bayfield Town Manager Katie Sickles, right, and Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington have initiated the planning process to develop 30 lots into affordable duplexes off of Cinnamon Drive.

The median price for a home in La Plata County in the first quarter of 2021 hit $499,000 up from $440,000 in the same quarter in 2020, a 13.4% increase, according to DAAR.

DAAR’s multiple listing service pegged the first quarter median-priced home in Bayfield at $367,000 compared with $330,500 in the first quarter of 2020, an 11% increase.

“Our end goal is to keep it under $300,000, which is where most people are getting approved to buy homes, but it’s hard to find a home in La Plata County at that price,” Tarkington said. “Right now, any teacher, any nurse, any fireman, any cop, that’s kind of where they’re getting approved at $300,000 or under.”

The town’s entry into developing attainable housing seemed inevitable given the county’s dearth of available housing for anyone with a middle-class income.

“We’ve lost two great employees because they couldn’t find housing. I feel it’s our job to solve problems,” Tarkington said. “And this is a problem.”

She noted a chain discount store in town had listed an opening for a store manager for months, but no one could afford to live nearby. Now, she said, someone commutes from the chain store’s operations in the Farmington area to manage the Bayfield outlet.

The town has set aside about $1 million to develop Cinnamon Heights, and because it is not looking to profit off the housing sales, it can keep prices lower than a private development.

The town has purchased 15 lots on the east side of the street for $350,000 and plans to purchase the other 15 lots across the street to complete the land purchase for the project.

The project can be built in phases as demand for the duplexes and the number that will be reserved for Bayfield town employees or employees of other interested governmental entities are determined down the road, Sickles said.

Tarkington added: “Right now, we’re so far from ground breaking, we have a million questions, but we’ll have a ton of meetings to get this right. For Bayfield, this is a pretty big project. It’s not anything we take lightly. We want to make sure we get this right.”

This story has been updated to correct the number of residential units in the project to 30 units.

parmijo@durangoherald.com