Controversial Tiny Home Project Hits Roadblock

Photo by CR Chambers

LaBarre housing pursuit in WP may be headed to court

~ by Bob Volpe ~

A group opposed to a planned tiny home project in the Tamarac subdivision won a partial victory last week during a rare meeting of the Woodland Park Board of Adjustment.


Although the board okayed the project, they imposed much more stringent conditions that those recommended by the city staff. In fact, some insiders now question if the development will ever get built, or speculate that the issue will be headed to court. Last week marked the first of several appeals mounted against the proposed housing project.


Developer Pete LaBarre, the former owner of the Denny’s restaurants in Woodland Park and southern Colorado, and past chairman of the Teller County Republicans, plans to build 53 manufactured homes on 6.68 acres in the subdivision.  The “village” would offer one and two-bedroom homes with seven optional layouts. Each unit will have at least 500 square feet of living space. Plans for each unit include a front porch, with the option of having a back porch as well.


A group opposed to the development appealed the city staff’s earlier approval of the project and went before the Board of Adjustment to express their concerns. Robert Jewel, who is one of the representatives of the group, told TMJ News that the meeting was well attended by their representatives. He cited a presentation by group spokesman Paul Neal as quite impressive for conveying their concerns. Jewel said, “Paul B. Neal, made an excellent presentation. It was well-organized and very impressive and effective.”


The Board of Adjustment hearing went past 11 p.m., according to WP Planning Director Sally Riley. The group’s appeal was partially granted by the Board of Adjustment, according to Jewel.


However, the specific ramifications of this decision are still in question.


“That involved a decision to increase the spacing between units. I’m told this effectively sends the whole project back to the drawing board, unless the developers or the city appeal that part of the board’s decision.”


The board’s decision was that the spacing between the 53 manufactured homes be increased to 16 feet. This is a much larger buffer area from the earlier proposed spacing requirements. With this change, many area leaders wonder if this project will ever see  the light of day, as it could escalate the costs involved.


But that is just the opening phase of the volley of opposition against the development, according to project critics.


Jewel stated, “We believe that the community is facing a bigger issue than just this development. If the Village at Tamarac is allowed to proceed, the city of Woodland Park will be changed forever, because the city will set a precedent requiring it to approve all such future projects. After that, it will be ‘open season’ on Woodland Park, and these crowded, congested developments will pop up everywhere. As the many citizens who attended the meeting last night demonstrated, if there is ever a time to get involved in Woodland Park City government, it is now or never.”


According to Jewel, another group opposed to the project is planning an appeal on September 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers. This group is asking that approval for this project be denied.



A minor setback for the city


City officials have a different interpretation of the Tamarac tiny home development scenario, compared to the opposing residents.


Riley told TMJ News that this project had to be approved since the zoning allowed for such a development. That said, she conceded that the issue of these manufactured homes needs to be looked at closer when the city reviews its comprehensive plan.


According to Riley, the city considers the board’s decision a minor setback. She said, “In nut shell the BOA moved to “affirm the order/approval in part …with a modification that the units be spaced 16’ wall to wall.”


The original plan was approved by the city. According to Riley, since the land is zoned multi-family suburban, the project did not need to go to the planning commission for recommendations, or the city council for approval. Riley said, “This is a permitted use by right for a multi-family project on this 6 acres.”


LaBarre only needs to submit a permitted use site plan review to the city that meets city zoning requirements and the project can then move forward. Riley stated, “If the applicant meets all the city standards with respect to grading and infrastructure, lighting, and landscaping, then we will approve the development.”


Proponents of the project cite the advantages of meeting the community’s burgeoning affordable housing needs.


The home prices would start at about $115,000, and owners would pay $600 to $700 a month to lease their lot. According to an article in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, LaBarre explained he is trying to meet the need for more affordable housing in Woodland Park.


“The reality is that the housing shortage, in all price ranges, is really critical,” said LaBarre. “There’s a whole segment of our society that can’t afford a $250,000, $300,000 home. They can’t get financing. They’re stuck with renting.”


He went on, “The zoning and codes haven’t kept up with the quality of product that’s being factory built, whether it’s a tiny towable park model, a manufactured home, or a modular home.”