Mountain Village Town Council is considering selling the 49 additional Village Court Apartment (VCA) units that will be created as a result of the expansion project. Council members and town staff will discuss the for sale option during its regular meeting Thursday in town hall. The agenda item is scheduled for a 40-minute discussion beginning at 10:55 a.m.
The idea of offering the new units for sale came out of a Sept. 5 retreat, according to a staff memo prepared by town attorney James Mahoney.
“After the Town Council retreat of September 5, 2019 our office and Town staff were directed to look into the possibility of converting the VCA Expansion Project from rental apartments to units that could be sold individually,” it read.
Mayor Laila Benitez explained that council holds an annual off-site meeting every year before discussing the budget.
“We have an honest discussion about what our goals are and make sure what we have in the budget reflects those goals,” she said.
The plan up until this point was to rent out the 42 two-bedroom and seven one-bedroom new VCA units, but Benitez said the idea of selling the units came up recently — an option that needs to be discussed more in-depth, she added.
Projected sales prices are $317,667 for a two-bedroom unit and $213,830 for the one-bedrooms, according to PowerPoint presentation included in the meeting packet. Benitez called those estimates “extremely rough,” but the prices “give us a good idea directionally to say is there interest in this price range?”
“At this point, we’re just exploring all options,” she added. “We’ve heard a lot of interest from residents and potential residents, and businesses about wanting the opportunity to own. Hopefully, as we learn more, we’ll figure out what’s the best way to approach this project.”
Asked if there is potential to offer a mixture of rentals and for sale units, Benitez said “it would be tricky,” but it may be a possibility.
“I think we thought it would be tricky to have a for sale option at all,” she said. “We’ve been surprised how workable that it is an option, so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Caton echoed those sentiments.
“No decision has been made on the way an expansion of VCA will be offered to our residents,” he said in an email to the Daily Planet. “Though we originally planned to rent all the units, we have been hearing that some residents of VCA and some who would like to be there would be interested in buying. This would of course change a lot in the management of the building (an HOA of owners would need to be established, for instance). We need to hear more from those interested to decide if all rental, all purchase or a combination would be the wisest choice.”
According to the memo, there are several factors that would still need to be thoroughly explored, including financing, platting and zoning, if council decides the for sale option is the best way to move forward.
“Financing for a government owned rental project is a completely different product than financing for a for sale product,” the memo reads. “There are also many variables to consider that we do not have information on yet as the bank the Town has been working with has not had adequate time to provide this information nor has the Town’s bond counsel been able to fully review this project.”
A new feasibility study may also be in order.
The estimated $13-plus million project was set to break ground in mid-October, but that will most likely not happen, as the project timeline may need to be shifted given the recent idea, Benitez said.
“I would feel more concerned that there was an option that better fit the community needs and maybe was a better way to use affordable housing funds to make affordable housing available to more people by selling it off. I would feel really bad if we didn’t explore this option,” she said. “I think we have a fiduciary responsibility to really look into all of these options. I wish we would have thought about it and vetted it much sooner. That’s my only regret. It’s not that we’re looking into this and it might delay (the project), but why didn’t we look into this sooner?”
Michelle Haynes, town planning and development services director, explained she hosted two VCA site walks with council members earlier this month.
“We had two different site walks to orient town council to VCA as a whole in September. In an effort to be proactive, it seemed like the right time to do an on-site walk with council so that they understood the decision making on the ground coming down the pike,” she said.
Council members Natalie Binder and Peter Duprey said they’re both anticipating a productive conversation Thursday.
“The idea was brought up, and after discussing, I believe there could be some great benefits to locals and the town,” Binder said. “I’m looking forward to having the discussion in the public forum and seeing how the Mountain Village community feels about taking this route.”
Duprey added, “I’m sure there will be a healthy discussion.” He explained there are benefits to offering the units for sale versus renting them, which will be part of the presentation Thursday.
The meeting packet can be viewed online at townofmountainvillage.com on the council meeting’s Event page.