By Pat Hill
Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the July 17 Courier. We are running it again here with corrections, notably to reflect that the Village at Tamarac is a modular small-home community in Woodland Park.
The developer of a 53-unit Woodland Park modular small-home community, Village at Tamarac, said it is intended to be a response to a housing need.
“There are no starter homes in Woodland Park for the average person,” said Pete LaBarre, who, with Eric Smith, Mark Weaver and other investors, is developing the 6.67-acre park. “There are jobs that go unfilled because people can’t afford to live here.”
An opposition group has questioned the zoning and character of the development and has requested a public hearing on the matter.
However, according to Sally Riley, the city’s planner, the modular-home development is a permitted use under the multi-family residential/suburban district. Each modular home is 506 square feet.
“These are not rentals, the people will own their homes,” LaBarre said, adding that, at 4 percent interest over 30 years, the monthly payment will be around $1,300, which includes insurance and property taxes.
With a cost of $115,000, plus a monthly lot fee of $600 to $700, the one-and two-bedroom manufactured homes will be 12 feet apart.
The spacing question was among 21 objections in a document sent via email to The Courier (therefore without signatures) from the opposition group.
LaBarre, Smith and Weaver responded to the objections in an interview with The Courier.
“If you live in an apartment complex, how close is your neighbor?” LaBarre said.
He continued, “We’ve got a program for qualified buyers, through Park State Bank & Trust, and guaranteed by USDA, which can do 100 percent financing if potential buyers make less than $83,500 a year.”
Weaver added. “A young family could rent an apartment or a house and pay $1,000 to $1,500 a month but they have no equity,” he said. “Yes, there’s pad (lot) rental but they own the home that sits on that pad (lot).”
As well, there is an opportunity for all the homeowners to own the land. “There’s a nonprofit that provides funding for this type of development to allow owners to maintain affordability,” LaBarre said.
In the meantime, the developers will pay the city $20,000 per unit for water/sewer/drainage/traffic impact fees. “The traffic impact fees are supposed to be used to further develop the roads that access all the different properties,” LaBarre said.
Village at Tamarac is on the cul-de-sac just beyond Woodland Fitness Center and the Colorado Springs Christian School on Tamarac Parkway.
To the argument that the developers will be cutting down trees, LaBarre said, “We’ll preserve some of the trees on the perimeter but we’re going to plant trees. Actually, we’re putting in more trees than is required by code,” he said.
Another complaint stated that property values in and near the area will be negatively impacted. “The demand for their homes isn’t going to cease. And home values are going to go up if people want to live here,” he said.
Another point of objection is the risk of foreclosure if the developers raise the lot fee and homeowners miss a payment, thus, returning the home to the developer. “The market limits the ability to raise the fees. From an economic standpoint we don’t want people moving out,” LaBarre said. “We have a more stable income stream by people remaining and paying their lot fee month after month”
The complainants questioned the developers’ reputation. “The signatories are of one accord that the developers are not suitable … and that previous projects speak for themselves in that regard,” states the email.
LaBarre responded, referring to his tiny-home project, Peak View Park. “The home prices in Peak View Park, contrary to everybody’s thought, have gone up in value, in some cases almost double,” he said.
While there is no requirement for a public hearing on the zoning issue, LaBarre will go before the city council in August to seek approval for the water taps.