ARTICLE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, 2002
CATEGORY: BUILT PROJECTS | PROJECT: WELLINGTON NEIGHBORHOOD
National Award for Smart Growth Achievement 2002 Winners:
Town of Breckenridge, Colorado Planning Department
The Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, Colorado provides affordable and market-rate housing on a site that was once dredge-mined. The project recycles land, creates housing for working families, provides a free transit shuttle to the nearby downtown, and helps the region avoid “mountain sprawl.”
Wellington’s houses are clustered together in groups of ten and feature front porches and rear alleys. Clustering of homes allows the neighborhood to preserve public open space and trails.
Locals who work in the historic resort town of Breckenridge were being squeezed out of the area by median costs of $725,000 for a single-family home. For many workers, the American Dream was only available across Hoosier Pass, a 45- minute commute over treacherous mountain roads. Meanwhile, an 85-acre site in French Gulch on the town’s outskirts sat amid hundreds of acres spoiled by mining, and the zoning allowed only four homes.
Breckenridge has reclaimed 22 acres of this brownfield site to develop the Wellington Neighborhood, a compact community built in the style of traditional neighborhoods with attractive and affordable homes. Fifty-eight of 122 approved homes have been constructed. Another 20 acres is preserved as open space or community parks. The project was planned in two stages: first, the French Gulch Remediation Opportunities Group (FROG), composed of citizens, property owners, the Colorado Department of Public Health, and EPA officials, worked for several years with the Keystone Center, a non-profit environ-mental mediation group, to prioritize clean-up actions and funding. Second, Breckenridge officials and residents worked together over four years to plan and design the neighborhood.
The Breckenridge Planning Department encouraged Wellington’s traditional neighborhood design through flexible zoning for housing setbacks (closer to the street), road widths (narrower), and lot sizes (smaller). Housing affordability is ensured through covenants to keep homes affordable for future generations. Streamlined purchaser qualification standards facilitate transactions and reduce administrative requirements. The project was funded in part with public sector incentives worth more than $1 million, as well as a U.S. EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment “Prospective Purchaser Agreement” that partially funded the clean-up and wetland reclamation.
Using smart growth principles, Wellington has increased the supply of affordable housing, cleaned a contaminated site, and created a compact, walkable neighborhood with access to trails and open space. Eighty percent of homes are reserved for purchase by people who work in Summit County, at about one-third (or less) the cost of the median purchase price in Breckenridge. Wellington’s location near downtown Breckenridge places housing near job centers, reducing commute times and related emissions. New homeowners include the town manager, government employees, shop owners, teachers and police officers.
A GOOD MODEL
The Wellington Neighborhood serves as a model for design, planning, development, construction, and community participation. This project has particular relevance to communities in resort or “gateway” towns where affordable housing for permanent residents is scarce. Wellington’s design/planning team also used this model for a low-income housing community in Boulder and hopes to expand the concept into other mountain communities in Colorado.
COMMUNITY & ACCESSS
Wellington residents enjoy the strong community that has developed in a short time. Fostering this sense of place is architecture that complements both human scale and historic setting. Wellington’s compact plan includes public greens and connections that create a safe and appealing environment for outdoor play, bicycling, and pedestrians. Free public transportation links Wellington to downtown and ski areas. Residents enjoy easy access to trails and thousands of acres of open space.
” You’ve got to find ways to keep the police officers, the teachers, the managers in the community..These people are both the economic engine and the soul of the town. There’s nothing else like the Wellington Neighborhood in the county and not much else like it in the whole country. “ – SAM MAMULA, Mayor of Breckenridge