Tiny home community eyed west of Gunnison
By Will Shoemaker
New owners of a RV park and campground west of Gunnison are eyeing the site for development of a year-round community comprised of tiny homes and “park models.”
The group hopes to submit an official application to county planners in coming months, said Pete LaBarre, CEO of Rare Earth Development and Investments, which purchased Mesa Campground earlier this year. The vision, over time, is to replace existing, seasonal park models at the campground, three miles west of the city, with units capable of withstanding Gunnison winters.
Rare Earth has developed a similar 64-space park model community in Woodland Park. Park models are small housing units that ride the line between mobile homes and RVs — smaller than the former but more permanent than the latter.
The units, which LaBarre estimates would cost about $65,000, would be sold with rent paid on the underlying land. All told, monthly housing costs would be around $800 per month, including financing and utilities.
Deed restrictions would ensure that the units serve the local workforce, though LaBarre said the exact terms of those covenants have yet to be determined.
“Tiny living is a niche lifestyle,” he said. “I think folks who gravitate toward that tend to be more community minded.”
In fact, that’s the goal of the development — offering opportunity for members of the workforce to build equity in a home while taking pride in the unit they own.
“If they can sell it for what they paid for it five years from now, maybe they can go and find something different,” he said.
If all goes as planned, the project would launch by late next summer, at which time Mesa’s owners hope to bring examples of the units to Gunnison for potential owners to tour.
Current seasonal residents at Mesa say they learned of the new owners’ plans at a meeting this past June. Many have contacted the Times in recent months, relaying fears that the development will bring an end to their summertime vacation destination.
Many of the seasonal inhabitants own their park-model homes but pay rent on the underlying ground. One such resident, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, has been coming to Mesa for 33 years.
“My parents came here, my children come here and my grandchildren are coming here,” he said. “This campground is the gold standard for Gunnison and those vacationers and seasonal retirees spend a good amount of money in Gunnison and Crested Butte area.”
LaBarre, however, assured that seasonal tenants would not be forced out. As the project develops over time, Mesa would continue to operate as an RV park and campground.
“Market forces would determine how long we do that,” he said. “We wouldn’t force anybody out. … Our approach is we’re trying to build communities. This is a passion for us. We don’t want to displace somebody who’s got an investment in the community. Even though they’re here vacationing, we don’t want to see them have to give it up.”
Cathie Pagano, director of Community and Economic Development for Gunnison County, said she and staff members met with Rare Earth representatives last week.
Because of the proposal’s unique nature, it doesn’t fit neatly into the “box” for review under county regulations as an RV park, Pagano noted, since the community would be inhabited year-round. Instead, it’s more in line with the regulations’ concept of a “mobile home community.”
However, that section of the rules stipulates density, minimum lot size and setback requirements based on the dimensions of larger mobile homes. As a result, land-use regulations may need to change to accommodate such concepts for providing housing, Pagano said.
“More of the planning concerns that I have around the project is it’s two-and-a-half miles from town,” she said. “There’s no bus service there. There’s no trail there. … That’s certainly a consideration.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)