Planning for affordable housing for seniors

Group meets with Gilpin County officials

by Patty Unruh

After having their past two monthly meetings canceled by inclement weather, members of the Gilpin County Senior Living Board (GCSL) finally met on Tuesday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Gilpin County School. Sharon Perea, President, and Steve Boulter, Joe Marr, and Jeanne Nicholson, Members-at-Large, were present. Rob Sawyer, Vice President, Craig Holmes, Treasurer, Ardetta Robertson, Secretary, and Carol Snyder, Funding Committee Chairman, were unable to attend.

County Manager Abel Montoya and Community Development Director Stephen Strohminger were also present at the April 23 meeting.

Sandy Hollingsworth, a member of the public, attended and offered her experience as a social worker in gerontology.

The next meeting is on Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the school board room. The Board usually meets on the second Wednesday of each month. The public is welcome to attend.

GCSL members have been in a holding pattern for several months on their plans to build affordable rental housing for local Gilpin County seniors. Since 2015, the group has been formulating plans to build 16 residences on the Gilpin Community Center complex on Norton Drive.

The April 23 meeting focused on efforts to move forward – getting a bank loan, finalizing the site choice, working with the county on water and wastewater issues, and the steps the GCSL must go through in the development process.

Strohminger gave the Board members copies of a document entitled “Possible Senior Living Development Process.” The process described was based on county staffs’ current understanding of the project and may change as information is updated.

The first step in the Development Process is to determine the location for the housing. Back in 2015, GCSL reviewed several possible sites and selected a potential location at the northwest corner of the Gilpin Community Center campus near the public health building. The site selection may change according to the area best suited for 16 residences.

The selected property must be surveyed, followed by preparation of a preliminary layout and design. Montoya said the county is in the process of soliciting a surveyor and hopes to have someone on board by June 1.

Water requirements and the handling of sewer discharge will be determined by the Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR). The Development Process listed these options:

(1) DWR approves discharge into Clear Creek watershed, securing an agreement with Black Hawk/ Central City Sanitation District to connect to their infrastructure.

(2) DWR requires discharge into Ralston Creek watershed, or the connection to the Sanitation District’s infrastructure is not possible, and engineered plans for an on-site sanitation system must be obtained.

After water requirements are figured out, plans for the development will be finalized. GCSL will apply for review to the Planning Commission. Once any desired revisions are made, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and will make its recommendation to the Gilpin County Board of Commissioners.

The Commissioners are the ultimate deciding body. Its members will hold a public hearing, and if they grant approval, a lease for the property will be prepared and a final review will be done of engineering plans, layout, sanitation, fire, and other related items. Applications for an electrical permit and an access permit follow. The county reviews to ensure code compliance and issues the building permits.

Construction begins. Upon inspection and approval by the county building inspector and the state electrical inspector, a certificate of occupancy is issued.

Strohminger suggested an approximate timeline. It may take about 60 days for the Planning Commission to review the Development Plan, including looking at building locations, road and parking layout, architectural elevations, preliminary engineering, sanitation, and having the public hearing. The Commissioners could take about 30 days to do its review. The final plan review and permits could take another couple of months. Depending on providers’ availability, the surveys, development plans, engineering plans, sanitation plans, and building plans could take a year to 18 months to have prepared. Construction happens whenever GCSL’s contractor is ready for each stage.

The Board discussed financing through a bank loan and the potential need for collateral.

“You’re a non-profit, non-county entity that would be leasing land on county property,” Montoya noted. “We need a letter from a bank stating that such a group is good enough to give a loan to. If we can’t get that, what is option B for collateral? We’ll have to brainstorm that.”

Montoya felt that the analysis and exhibits that GCSL have prepared are good products to show to a bank.

Nicholson added, “A banker I spoke with was willing to be creative, since this was a worthy cause and sponsored by a non-profit organization in the local community. He said he would like to see GCSL raise money in the form of pledges, if not cash, for at least 30 percent of the funds needed before the bank would consider the loan.”

The Board members considered the issue of water availability, noting some frustration with being given only verbal assurances of water on the Community Center complex. There is nothing in writing yet, but Montoya stated that the county is continuing to look into the possibility of assisting GCSL with its water needs.

GCSL does not plan a big, rectangular building with the appearance of an apartment building. They are thinking of duplexes or triplexes scattered in and out of the trees, giving more of an appearance of belonging.

GCSL has raised approximately $64,000 toward its goal of $1.7 million. The funds have come from private donors, a foundation, and various fundraisers at local events. Net income from 2015-2018 fundraisers was about $22,000. The group had booths at the Gilpin County Fair, the Winter Arts Festival at the Community Center, and the Gilpin County Flea Market. It also hosted its own dinner and talent show, which is its largest fund generator.

In 2018 alone, 71 volunteers worked 686 hours, including 180 hours at Rockies baseball games, serving in a food booth and assisting fans shopping in the Rockies’ retail store. That brought in about an additional $1,600 net. Perea expressed appreciation for GCSL’s volunteers, some of whom help at every event and others who assist as their time permits.

GCSL plans to continue raising funds this year at the county flea market in June, a car show in July, Rockies games this summer, a lasagna dinner in the fall, and the Winter Arts Festival in December.

Montoya said that once the site plan has been approved, GCSL can start looking at soft costs.

“We’ll check with the Commissioners as to what degree they want to use county resources. We’ll go to the public to show how it’s laid out and what county resources are permitted.”

Board members broached being flexible and creative, asking the county whether one of the parcels the county had to take because of non-payment of taxes could be used for collateral. Members also discussed having a neighborhood meeting as a courtesy and the need to keep things transparent.

As always, GCSL’s main goal is to provide affordable housing for senior citizens. Nicholson commented, “Those of us who have lived here a long time can name people who wanted to stay here but couldn’t. In the last few months, several people have left. Our own community should provide housing for them. We’re all coming from an honorable place, we just need to work out details and find enough money to make it work.”

Montoya advised that the Commissioners next meeting is May 7, and GSCL should attempt to have information back from the bank by that date in order to have a conversation with the Commissioners about costs.


GCSL is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit. Its Board of Directors consists of local volunteers whose goal is to provide independent rental housing for local Gilpin County seniors. The organization was formally structured in early 2015. Since that time, the Gilpin Commissioners have strongly supported GCSL’s plan and has committed to providing a building site on the County campus and working with the group regarding water and sewer. Local residents have also shown great interest, and some have already asked GCSL if they could sign up on a waiting list.

The group’s plan is to build 16 residences that provide independent-style living. Once these are built and at capacity, additional residences are planned.

GCSL’s research shows that Gilpin’s senior population is proportionately one of the highest in the state; in 2015, the county’s population of adults 75 years and older numbered 191. At this time, there are no housing options for them when it is no longer feasible to remain in their current home.

GCSL’s website is

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