Getting ready for a submittal
“Let’s make a deal” will likely be the name of the game when the Crested Butte Town Council gets its first look at the Foothills annexation proposal in the coming weeks. And that’s exactly the way it should be, according to attorney Jerry Dahl.
Dahl spoke to Mayor Alan Bernholtz and the Crested Butte Town Council during its work session on Tuesday, February 19 about what the council can expect during annexation and subdivision proposals.
Dahl is an expert in his field—a municipal attorney for several Front Range and Summit County cities who helped draft the state’s amended annexation law in 1987.
Much of Crested Butte’s power lies in its home rule status, according to Dahl. “Home rule essentially means that you can ignore the state statutes for cities and write your own ticket,” he explained. In Crested Butte, the town has the ability to draft its own subdivision requirements, which are used when someone wants to develop a large parcel already within city limits.
Of significant importance for the Town of Crested Butte as it looks forward to its latest annexation proposal is the town’s Three Mile Plan, known locally as the Crested Butte Area Plan.
The Town is anticipating the submittal of the Foothills annexation, which is being proposed by Fairways GH Paradise, LLC. It involves a 71-acre tract of land immediately north of Crested Butte, bordered on the west by State Highway 135, to the north by the Moon Ridge subdivision, and to the east by the recreation path.
Fairways GH Paradise, LLC, which is owned by Gunnison resident Cliff Goss, Kent Hill, and Dallas-area partners, presented its initial plans to Town residents during a open house on January 17. The proposal calls for approximately 400 units, with the development most dense near town.
On Tuesday night, Dahl explained that annexations were on the state legislature’s mind when it began requiring municipalities to draft Three-Mile Plans. The state wanted to have some idea of what municipalities were planning when expanding their borders. However, the requirements in the Three-Mile Plans are simply guidelines and aren’t set in stone for developers to follow.
“Annexation is a consensual act between the property owner and the community,” Dahl said. “You are not obliged to say yes to any annexation.”
Dahl went on to explain it’s up to the town to negotiate with the developer over what’s within the annexation—although many towns rely on the principals they’ve outlined in subdivision regulations and their Three Mile Plan. “You strike what amounts to a bargain,” he said.
Bernholtz joked that the town could request an annexation to become a Bavarian village, replete with “wooden shoes and Dutch-boy haircuts.”
That’s true, Dahl said, but cautioned that some developers will then turn to the county government with their proposal. In some situations, the developer will stop negotiating with the town in favor of seeking what may amount to less density from the county.
It often comes down to utilities, Dahl explained, because to get higher density, developers need central water and sewer, and fewer and fewer counties are willing to approve so-called “package” water and sewer plants.
Bernholtz questioned whether the town was allowed to request things outside its subdivision requirements from someone attempting to annex into the town. “That’s fine,” Dahl said.
Bernholtz also asked if the town could flatly refuse an annexation proposal, without citing its reasons.
Dahl said yes and noted that a city that employed him had done just that when a developer did not respond to repeated requests to reduce the density of the project. “He was trying to get ten pounds of flour in a five-pound sack,” he said.
Dahl ended the lesson by cautioning the Town Council that it could not speak to anyone outside of the council chambers about an annexation proposal once it was submitted. Due to the council’s quasi-judicial role, any “ex parte” communication with the proponent or members of the public could disqualify them from participating in the process.
Foothills developers have said they intend to submit their annexation proposal in March.