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Residents for and against Durango Crossings sound off

Project would be the largest workforce housing project in the city
Eva Henson, housing innovation manager with the city of Durango, and Dan Armentano, a Durango city planner, discuss the proposed Durango Crossing development on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in the area southeast of Florida Road near the intersection of East Animas Road (County Road 250). (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

If it comes to fruition, the proposed Durango Crossings development at the intersection of Florida Road and East Animas Road (County Road 250) would be the city’s largest workforce housing development yet.

Durango Crossings LLC founder Ken Trujillo said the project is an effort to build an affordable community with an assortment of quality-of-life amenities.

But some neighborhood residents are concerned about the project’s density and increased traffic on the already busy arterial corridor that is Florida Road. There are also disturbances to wildlife and wildfire danger that should be considered, they said.

Per the agreement between the city of Durango and developers Trujillo and Reynolds Ash + Associates Architecture & Engineering, no less than half of the 149 total units proposed at this time would be dedicated to workforce housing for workers earning between 70% and 120% of the area median income.

City planner Dan Armentano said the city and the developers are pursuing other funding options that could allow Durango Crossings to include even more workforce units.

The proposed Durango Crossing development is in the area southeast of Florida Road near the intersection of East Animas Road (County Road 250). (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“Once the annexation’s complete, we can look at a conditions assessment for urban renewal and potentially leverage tax increment for offsetting some of the infrastructure costs,” he said.

Sixty of the units are planned to be rental apartments. Eighty-nine of the units are planned to be condominiums and townhomes for ownership.

Trujillo told The Durango Herald in August 2023 the project includes commercial spaces that would ideally house a day care, grocery store and meeting spaces for people who work from home. He would also like to build a mix of trails and a children’s play area.

Armentano said last week the proposal also includes a private park.

Durango City Council approved an ordinance on first reading to annex the Durango Crossings Partnership Addition including even numbered addresses from 1480-1550 Florida Road following a public hearing on Feb. 6. Some residents are excited about the project, which would be the largest workforce housing development in the city with half of 149 units dedicated to workforce housing. But other residents and commuters of Florida Road are worried about the size and scope of the project and wildfire risks, as well as impacts on wildlife and traffic. (Courtesy of the city of Durango)
Commendations and concerns

Several residents spoke at a public hearing about Durango Crossings during a Feb. 6 City Council meeting, providing a mixed reception of the project. Others shared their concerns with the Herald this week.

HomesFund Executive Director Lisa Bloomquist was ecstatic about the project.

She said a recent analysis she performed about area wages and available housing revealed a gap of $220,000 for a household earning 80% of the area median income to buy a home.

Councilor Jessika Buell noted the gap three years ago was about $100,000.

“That 50% of the units are going to be affordable is extraordinary, and I’d like to commend the staff and the developer for this public-private partnership for working together to make this possible,” Bloomquist said.

This is roughly where the entrance to the proposed Durango Crossing development is located. The development is in an area southeast of Florida Road near the intersection of East Animas Road (County Road 250). (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Resident Dave Linden, who lives within 1,000 feet of the project site, also commended the city and developers for taking on a project with a large affordability component. However, he said the project’s scope and density are worrisome because it would urbanize what is a somewhat rural-suburban area.

The four-story building that would house commercial and apartment space is “out of proportion” for the neighborhood where the tallest existing structures are three stories high.

He said the hillside behind the site is a high wildfire danger area, and dense development there will only increase the risk. Higher density also means more traffic on Florida Road.

Rachel Landis, who also lives in the neighborhood of the project site, shared Linden’s worries and Bloomquist’s excitement.

She supports Durango Crossings being built, but she suggested reducing the bottom area median income threshold to 60%. She said average wages for area college professors and people working in the nonprofit sector are between $40,000 and $50,000.

Landis agreed with Linden that traffic congestion on Florida Road makes her nervous. She said she commutes by bicycle and Florida Road is “back-to-back-to-back nonstop in the mornings and in the afternoons.”

Sunny Hallauer, another neighborhood resident near the project site, told the Herald on Wednesday Durango Crossings stands to have an “immense” impact on the area residents, traffic and wildlife.

“I mean, talk about fire mitigation on the hillsides back here and erosion. And I know that they are planning on all of that and taking that into consideration. But still, it just seems like a lot of people to pack into a small area,” she said.

She said it’s almost impossible to turn onto Florida Road during peak traffic hours, that area median income is “pretty doggone high around here,” and existing apartments in the area have a high turnover rate, meaning some residents might not have a vested interest in the long-term quality of the neighborhood.

Deer, bears, foxes and coyotes are common in the hillsides of the project zone, and elk used to be as well, Hallauer said. She worries about the impact dense development will have on the wildlife habitat.

La Plata County resident Marilyn McCord, who lives near the north end of Vallecito Reservoir and drives into Durango via Florida Road, said in an email she often supports lower income housing, but she opposes this project.

She said people going to and from Forest Lakes already adds traffic on Florida Road, and she wouldn’t welcome an increase.

“I also am concerned about impacts on wildlife (which is why I live where I do – adjacent to the Weminuche Wilderness),” she said.

The proposed Durango Crossing development, seen here on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, is southeast of Florida Road near the intersection of East Animas Road (County Road 250). (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

In addressing traffic concerns, Trujillo said this past August that Durango Crossings is in an ideal location because the main entrance is located at the signalized Florida Road and East Animas Road intersection.

He said preliminary traffic studies showed there won’t be “a material impact, ultimately, on traffic.”

“And in fact, there's a possibility that it could actually help with some of the traffic issues that exist,” he said.

He also said public input has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Armentano said wildfire mitigation requirements will be discussed during upcoming preliminary reviews, and one condition of approval “requires the structures to use fire-restant design and construction techniques” and developments in the Wildland-Urban Interface are required to have defensive space per city code.

With or without the Durango Crossings project, he said traffic flow along Florida Road “may begin to function at below acceptable levels by 2044” and the city will continue to assess impacts and consider ways to mitigate that.

City code also allows staff to require wildlife reports with development proposals, which are needed when projects could impact critical habitats, big game winter ranges and migration corridors, he said.

Staff waived that requirement for Durango Crossings because “the site is not in a pristine, undisturbed condition, and is not large enough to be considered a winter range or critical habitat,” and wildlife impacts are expected to be minimal.

Building a community

Trujillo said his goal with Durango Crossings is to give residents a place to experience the same kind of community he did growing up in Durango.

As a child, he lived two blocks away from an elementary school and two blocks away from tennis courts where he learned how to play tennis. He learned how to ski in a boy’s club, and living in a tight knit community generally gave him lots of opportunities to play outdoors and socialize.

“Those are all things that were pretty important in my growing up and in my ability to be active,” he said. “ … Having a community is really the element that to me is critical. Not having a community around you is one of the things that really creates a lot of issues.

“So I think it's critically important to have a community and that community can include elements like a grocery store or day care or playgrounds or recreational areas. But more than anything, it just needs to include, I think, people who have an eye out for you. And that's what I took away from my upbringing in Durango.”

Project scope

Armentano said the proposed development is complex, and factors like total units and amenities are still subject to change. But as proposed, it would be built in three phases with the first phase of construction possibly starting as soon as this fall.

About 32 condo units in one to two buildings and townhomes along the new access road would be built in the first construction phase.

Three apartment buildings with about 20 units per building and the second access road would be built in the second phase.

The commercial units and 31 more residential condos would be built during the third phase, with commercial space planned for the first and second floors and the condos planned for third and fourth floors.

The project involves an 80-feet right of way through the site and two access points to the property. The developers have requested a left turn lane for westbound traffic on Florida Road to turn into the property.

Additionally, steep slopes in the back of the property away from Florida Road make construction difficult. Armentano said the development needs to occur outside of areas of 30% slope, or an incline of roughly 17 degrees.

He said the three-way intersection at Florida Road and East Animas Road where a stoplight sits would be converted into a four-way intersection with a primary access point to Durango Crossings.


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