South Fork Town Board hears workforce housing presentation


SOUTH FORK — During the meeting of the South Fork Board of Trustees on Sept. 27, local resident Matt Dorsett gave a presentation on workforce housing in South Fork and possible solutions to the growing issue in the area.

Dorsett began by stating that he and his wife have owned a house in South Fork for several years and they had been coming to the area for even longer before purchasing property here.

According to Dorsett, when it became apparent, they wanted to live in South Fork fulltime, they purchased the second phase of Jackson Heights just over a year ago with the intent of putting in a retreat center, an event space, and cabins on the property and though that still may take place, Dorsett was made aware of the workforce housing issue through the potential project.

“I was made aware of the workforce housing issue that is going on all throughout Colorado. As a civil engineer and a surveying firm, we do land development and so this really spoke to me as something I would like to be involved in as far as workforce housing projects. In order to support the retreat center, we want to build we need workers, so we bought more property with the intent of putting work housing on it,” said Dorsett.

Dorsett said that they also closed on the Spruce Lodge in May where they plan to host a program that helps “New Adults” navigate the beginning of their lives through work internships and faith led gap programs. Dorsett was then introduced to the new workforce housing task force and has since decided that he wanted to be part of the project by offering land to be used for building potential workforce housing in South Fork.

“We have started down this path and we have made a lot of progress and that is what I wanted to bring to you tonight,” explained Dorsett. “We have been working with fading West Development out of Buena Vista, Colo. and we have gone through all of the current ordinances in South Fork and came up with a plan for how we can use this land.”

Dorsett showed a presentation that highlighted how the land that was purchased with the Spruce Lodge could be used as a location for workforce housing. The proposed project would be modular homes that could be three bedroom, two bath homes and about 30 homes for the proposed location. Though what he presented was not what he deemed the final answer, Dorsett did explain that it would serve as a model for what the workforce housing task force was proposing.

The proposal did point out that one of the reasons it was difficult for communities to build affordable workforce housing was because it cost more to build the housing units than the units could be sold for and to find a solution to that equation was going to take more time and additional funding, potentially through grants.

Dorsett contacted the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and worked through some of the options that may be available to them for additional funding, but one thing that needed to be done first, was to establish the need of workforce housing in the South Fork area.

“We reached out to the San Luis Valley Housing Coalition, who previously had put together housing studies,” said Dorsett.

The result was that South Fork needs 15 to 20 rentals, 5 to 10 for sale units and Dorsett concluded that the workforce housing need was a worthy project to consider.

At the end of the presentation, Dorsett confirmed that the town is working on submitting the paperwork for the grant funding and that it would result in a five-year plan to develop workforce housing in the area and to work through some of the difficulties that may hold the project up including wastewater treatment, turning lanes on Highway 160 as well as others. More discussions will be taking place in the coming months.