Residents express initial concerns
The Town of Mt. Crested Butte is in the process of considering a proposed annexation’s eligibility for incorporation into the town, but some members of the community have said the developer’s design conflicts with the town’s Community Plan.
The discussion led the council to reconsider just how the Community Plan should affect an annexation, prior to adopting any formal resolution.
The annexation of an 8.8-acre parcel of land on the northwest corner of Mt. Crested Butte is being proposed by Brush Creek Holdings LLC. Basic development plans submitted along with the annexation petition outline six single-family lots and two multi-family lots.
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council held a public hearing on Tuesday, December 18 to discuss the parcel’s eligibility for annexation.
According to a document that guides the town’s annexation procedures, the council must first pass a resolution determining a parcel’s eligibility for annexation before considering an ordinance to approve the annexation. The town does not require public notice to adopt a resolution, whereas an ordinance does require public notice.
Mt. Crested Butte community development director Bill Racek began the hearing on Tuesday night with an overview of the annexation information presented to the town by Gary Garland, the principal owner of Brush Creek Holdings. Racek said the determination the council needed to make was if the parcel was eligible to be annexed, not if the development plans would justify an annexation.
Council member Mike Kube asked if they needed to consider the town’s Community Plan, in addition to state requirements.
The town’s attorney Rod Landwehr said that based on the language of the town’s resolution guiding annexations, the Community Plan needed to be considered.
However, Garland had not submitted enough information in the application for the Town Council to act on whether the parcel meets Community Plan requirements. Instead, Racek told the Town Council in a memo that the public hearing would be an opportunity to take comments that "may ultimately become the basis of findings of fact to be included in a resolution."
While the Town Council’s findings would ultimately be used to determine eligibility, Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan said approving eligibility does not determine what is actually built. "We’re not tying our hands. The proponent could bring a land use that we find inappropriate and we could deny the annexation without saying anything at all," Morgan said. Additionally, Morgan said, the town could decide to limit the development to a single building and the annexation request may be withdrawn.
Garland said he believed the annexation met both the state requirements and fit the town’s Community Plan. Garland said the Community Plan suggests helping Crested Butte Mountain Resort realize the development of Snodgrass Mountain, and the annexation would fit well if the mountain was eventually developed for lift-accessed skiing.
Council member Wendy Fisher said she was concerned the proposed land use may not be appropriate if ski lifts are not installed on Snodgrass.
On a similar vein, Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge said the proposed land use conflicts with the Community Plan’s zoning principles, which indicate that zoning should transition from the most intensive uses to the least intensive uses. Goettge said the two multi-family lots, adjacent to single-family lots and national forest lands, means the annexation wouldn’t quite fit the picture.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Susan Eskew agreed. "I don’t think this annexation parcel complies with the smart growth principles in our Community Plan," she said.
Crested Butte resident Sue Navy, on behalf of High Country Citizens’ Alliance, said HCCA wanted to know more about the town’s annexation process and how the Community Plan fits in. Navy also said there is a conservation easement held by Colorado Open Lands near the parcel, which could be affected by any development. "(Colorado Open Lands) should be given an official notice by the town of any annexation," Navy said.
Garland said he had already contacted Dan Pike, the president of Colorado Open Lands. "We’re not keeping them in the dark at all. They’re a neighbor. They should know what’s going on," Garland said.
Eskew said she was still confused why the town would want to annex the parcel if it did not fit the Community Plan.
Morgan said one reason the town desired the parcel is to have control over what gets developed there. The landowner could just as easily develop the land under the purview of Gunnison County, in which case the town would not be in the loop, Morgan said. "There’s a lot of development outside of Mt. Crested Butte that’s adjacent to town that we did not have any control over what happened," Morgan said.
Fitzpatrick said the parcel was identified in the Future Land Use Map of the Community Plan, but there was no specific reference to the parcel in the language of the document that would justify its annexation. Kube said they should avoid putting too much emphasis on small sections of the Community Plan.
Council members Kube, Tom Steuer and William Buck said they felt the parcel could be sought by the town based on economic benefits and control over the development.
Landwehr said he could draft a resolution for the council in time for the next meeting that would more accurately detail the council’s findings of fact approving the parcel’s eligibility, including elements of the Community Plan.
In the meantime, Morgan said, council members would have a good opportunity to review the Community Plan and make sure the annexation fit with the document’s overall vision of the town.
The council is scheduled to make a final decision adopting a resolution approving the parcel’s eligibility during their next meeting on Tuesday, January 8.