Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not include Ponderosa Mobile Home Park's address. The story below has been corrected.
The community stabilization program at Ponderosa Mobile Home Park, 4475 Broadway, is moving forward despite trepidation by some residents about the changes it will bring to their community.
The city purchased the property in 2017 to carry out a long-term project aimed at improving infrastructure, providing flood protection and eventually replacing trailers with other types of affordable housing. The project took a big step forward last month with a site review, annexation and land-use change application that will now go through several rounds of city staff review before coming before the Planning Board and later City Council.
The progress is encouraging, said Kurt Firnhaber, director of Housing and Human Services.
"A year and a half ago we were having community meetings just trying to figure out how to work together and reassessing the values and the priorities for the site," Firnhaber said. "This project has so many moving parts, much more so than a typical project would have because we're dealing with existing residents in an existing community that we're not trying to displace."
A stated goal throughout the project has been to minimize resident displacement. He acknowledged, however, that residents have concerns, particularly about the number of duplexes envisioned where currently they reside in single-family homes, as well as the length of time they can remain in their current homes.
Staff have assured residents they can remain in their homes as long as they like, and trailers will only be replaced with new housing when residents vacate them and sell them to the city.
Ponderosa has 68 mobile homes, and nearly 200 residents, many of whom have lived in the community for decades.
"Ultimately, the challenge is that people have lived in this community for 10 or 20 or 30 years, and they had a private owner and landlord for that time," Firnhaber said. "Now, they're owned by the city and they never asked to be redeveloped. They never asked for streets. They never asked for all these changes to occur. It's sort of been put upon them.
"That's a challenge for any community that goes through that. While the city has been really concerned about being sensitive to that, it's still a difficult process for the residents, even those that may be very supportive of the outcome and the direction. It's going to be many years of change as well."
Staff have been coordinating with a resident leadership committee, the members of which represent districts within the community and pass along information from regular meetings with city staff.
Kathy Schlereth serves on the committee as an alternate and a secretary. She said the process started well, but patience among some residents has waned as the project has progressed and changes have been made.
"We have to take what we're given," she said. "We're not happy with that."
When Tina Boguhn, another member of the leadership committee, moved into park 16 years ago, she launched a slew of home improvement projects to make the place her own.
"I was financially not able to buy a regular house, and so when this opportunity presented itself through a friend, I jumped at it," she said. "It was a bit overwhelming because when I first got my place it was pretty dilapidated."
She gutted everything and added drywall; installed new windows, doors and plumbing; landscaped the yard; and built a shed. Mobile homes aren't meant to last 50 years, she said, but she did all that work in hopes her home would last. Some residents have stopped similar home improvements in the wake of the uncertainty that the annexation has brought, she said.
"Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars went into making this my home, which we had no reason to believe we'd ever have to leave," she said.
She got involved with the leadership committee because she wanted to stay close to the project and provide ears and a voice for her neighbors who weren't able to do the same.
She said some residents feel misled and nervous about the changes to come, including the idea of living in duplexes rather than single-family homes and the iterations the project has undergone.
"It's their job to know everything, isn't it?" she said of staff. "When you're working on a project — this is what they do every day. We have lives and are trying to go through this process. The uncertainty of everything for the last two years has been enough to make people want to leave."
However, she gave staff credit for meeting with residents. By her estimation, they've spent hundreds of hours meeting with and listening to residents.
"They've definitely gone above and beyond to work with us, that no one has ever really seen before," she said. "That's important to say, too."
Staff has held bilingual meetings and workshops, and has worked to both meet resident expectations and city regulations, such as required fire separations between homes. Staff also has been looking for ways to modify regulations to provide more flexibility for residents, and the annexation process provides that opportunity.
"We want to take the regulations and modify them to make sense for the requirements of this community," Firnhaber said.
The project as envisioned provides for approximately 73 permanently affordable homes on foundations, in a mix of housing types and that are energy efficient and solar powered. There will be green space and a community building to host programs and provide a gathering space.
It also is important to remember the original intent of the project: to improve the infrastructure, said housing planner Crystal Launder.
"It was really about infrastructure replacement," Launder said. "That was where it all started back in 2015."
The applications include annexation and initial zoning of Residential Medium 2; a Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan land use designation change to Medium Density residential; and site review. If everything proceeds as projected, annexation will happen later this year.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org