Tree Farm Project Progress Amidst Legal Dispute: Certificates of Occupancy Likely Despite Affordable Housing Uncertainty

Stephanie Kroll

The Tree Farm project in El Jebel faces uncertainty due to an ongoing legal dispute between Tree Farm RFV LLC, controlled by landowner Ace Lane, and developer Walt Brown Jr.'s Lakeside TF LLC. The lawsuit, filed in June, alleges that Brown failed to commence construction within the agreed timeframe, leading Lane's group to seek repurchase of four parcels at the center of the dispute.

While legal battles unfold, Eagle County officials state they will "likely" approve certificates of occupancy for portions of the Tree Farm project, despite uncertainties about when affordable housing will be constructed. The project was approved in 2017, specifying that 40 price-capped apartments and 10 for-sale affordable housing units must be built. The 40 price-capped rental units are under construction and anticipated to receive certificates of occupancy concurrently with the first 142,000 square feet of development.

However, the 10 for-sale affordable housing units face uncertainty due to the legal dispute. These units are collateral damage in the disagreement between Lane and Brown. Lane's entity, Tree Farm RFV, alleges that Brown thwarted the construction timeline outlined in the purchase agreement, while Brown claims that Lane's actions hindered his ability to obtain timely building permits.

Eagle County Community Development Director Bill Gibson stated that the project is meeting the "intent" of the affordable housing mitigation plan. He indicated that certificates of occupancy may be issued for completed buildings, following the PUD Guide's provisions allowing administrative decisions when the overall intent of affordable housing commitments will be satisfied.

The ongoing legal dispute has raised questions about the timeline for the 10 for-sale affordable housing units. Despite the uncertainties, Lane's development team expressed confidence in completing the affordable housing component. Eagle County reiterated its commitment to affordable housing, emphasizing that the project is on pace with its affordable housing obligations.

As the Tree Farm project continues to unfold, stakeholders await resolution of the legal dispute and clarity on the completion of affordable housing units. The midvalley development, located across Highway 82 from Whole Foods Market, has faced various challenges but remains a focal point for future real estate developments in the region.

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