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2002 News Releases


EPA recognizes Breckenridge for Smart Growth achievements

Release Date: 11/19/2002
Contact Information:
303 312-6146,

Release Date: 11/19/2002
Contact Information:
303 312-6578

      Denver -- On Monday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman announced four winners of the first National Award for Smart Growth -- including the Breckenridge, CO Planning Department. The award recognizes state, local and regional governments for using innovative approaches to create healthy communities and strong economies. Smart growth is about deciding how and where growth should occur, while minimizing environmental impacts and maximizing public investments.

      The Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, Colorado provides affordable and market-rate housing on a site that was once home to contaminated mine waste. The project reuses land, creates housing for working families, provides a free transit shuttle to the nearby downtown, and helps the region avoid “mountain sprawl.” New homeowners include the town manager, government employees, shop owners, teachers and police officers.
Locals who work in the historic resort town of Breckenridge were being squeezed out of the area by median costs of $800,000 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. An additional 20 acres is preserved for open space or community parks.

The project was planned in two stages: first, the French Gulch Remediation 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 environmental mediation group, to prioritize clean-up actions and funding. Second, Breckenridge officials and residents, and developer David O'Neil 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 that ensure homes remain affordable for future generations and purchaser qualification standards to facilitate transactions and reduce administrative requirements. The project was funded in part with public sector incentives worth more than $1 million, and a "Prospective Purchaser Agreement," entered into by U.S. EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Mr. O'Neil that partially funded the ongoing mine site clean-up and provided for cleanup of various aspects of the project U.S. the

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 Summit County workers, at about one-third (or less) the cost of the median purchase price in Breckenridge.