Process will look at particular problem areas
Crested Butte town regulations governing windows, alternative energy devices, building heights and more within the historic district were discussed by the Town Council and the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) at a joint meeting held on Tuesday, December 11, with the two boards agreeing change is needed.
According to Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz, town staff requested the meeting in response to comments made during the recent Town Council elections held in November.
He said several of the candidates, during the Candidate’s Forum, said BOZAR was worth reviewing and he wanted BOZAR and the council to address any of the new council members’ concerns before too much time had passed.
“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to put faces to names, introduce the new council members to BOZAR and talk about some goals and expectations we have to clarify any misunderstandings or misgivings anyone might have of BOZAR,” Bernholtz told the members of the two boards.
“We’re supposed to be working together and be on the same page, so we thought it would be a good idea for us to get together,” Bernholtz added.
The last time BOZAR and the Town Council had a joint meeting was three years ago when, according to Bernholtz, the council provided BOZAR with some expectations and guidance for working with the public.
Crested Butte Building and Zoning director Bob Gillie opened the special meeting with a presentation on the history of BOZAR and a recap of the BOZAR process, including an overview of the town design guidelines and zoning code. However, the conversation quickly turned to the new council members’ comments and what concerns they had about BOZAR.
Town Council member Dan Escalante said BOZAR was an easy target during the election because the public’s concerns resonated loud and clear in the candidates’ ears. Since then he’s been able to hear different perspectives, and now believes the public’s perception of the review board is not entirely correct. However, some changes are needed, Escalante said.
Both new council members Reed Betz and Kimberly Metsch agreed with Escalante and added that concerns included consistency issues, the lack of public education, outdated provisions—especially those addressing energy efficiency, non-compliance, process delays and poor past performance.
“I hadn’t had prior experience (with BOZAR) so I didn’t know if I should defend it,” Metsch said, noting her perceptions of the board have begun to change since learning about the process.
Historic preservation officer and design review coordinator Molly Minneman addressed some of the council’s concerns and said, “The board really tries to apply the guidelines as consistently and evenly as possible.” However, she noted that in some cases, the process is imperfect. Crested Butte is required to have a review board because of its National Historic District designation.
Minneman said the BOZAR process has changed several times since its inception in the 1970s, and is continually changing to meet the public’s needs. She said the board implemented several changes in the past five years that have helped increase efficiency and provide assistance to builders.
“It’s a quick process relative to most design review processes—it usually takes less than a month,” Minneman explained to the council.
Gillie, also trying to address the new council members’ concerns, said BOZAR has been considering several changes, but lack of time and adequate staff have prevented it from happening. The last time BOZAR guidelines were updated was in 2001.
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“The board wants to make numerous revisions to (the Design Guidelines) book, we’ve been talking about since 2004,” Gillie said.
“But any new changes will probably take until 2009 to happen,” Gillie added, noting changes to the guidelines or zoning regulations have to be made by an ordinance involving public hearings.
Bernholtz agreed with Gillie and said, “It’s not an easy process.”
BOZAR chairman Keith Bauer said the board was prepared to make some changes, especially regarding provisions on windows and doors in the core zone—the sections of town designated as National Historic Districts. Bauer said BOZAR also wants to clarify provisions governing energy efficiency.
“This board is pretty open to and encourages efficiency,” Bauer said, addressing the council’s questions about BOZAR’s provisions regulating solar panels. Gillie added that he couldn’t think of any case where solar panels were denied.
Bauer also said he wanted to work with the council on parking issues as it is considered a “real gray area” for BOZAR.
“None of us are experts on it, so it would be nice to work together on it,” Bauer said.
Bernholtz suggested forming a subcommittee comprised of council members and BOZAR members to address additional changes. However, Bauer recommended BOZAR create the list of suggestions and bring them to the council rather than forming a subcommittee that would require additional work of the board’s volunteers.
Gillie added, “BOZAR is not an easy board to be on.”
BOZAR member Mark Collins agreed and added that some of the guidelines are lending themselves to problems.
“A lot of people come without ever reading the guidelines and that is where the problem lies—projects are personal and people get upset when changes are requested. However, I think the council needs to liberalize the guidelines because I don’t know what we can do otherwise to be more user-friendly,” Collins said.
Minneman said the design guidelines are not black and white and require the applicant do to some homework before entering the process. The guidelines are available to the public at Town Hall.
BOZAR member Melissa Belz recommended using public information outlets as means to distribute information about BOZAR and address misconceptions.
Bernholtz agreed with Belz and said information is key for the process to work. “What I have learned is people just don’t know and there are misconceptions,” Bernholtz said.
Bauer said that although there has been some frustration with the board and the process, he believes BOZAR has helped to maintain the Town’s character. “I know it’s not a perfect system, but I also know it’s working. (BOZAR) is a board made up of seven people and we each have our own view of how we interpret the guidelines, but it works,” Bauer said.
Bernholtz agreed and added that BOZAR regulations have influenced the character and look of the town. “The way our town looks is due in large part to what BOZAR has done over the past 30 years,” Bernholtz said.
BOZAR said it hopes to have a list of suggestions for the council by early February.