Mt. Crested Butte looks at pool and traffic plans
After nine public hearings the development plans for Mountaineer Square North are moving forward through the town of Mt. Crested Butte’s planning process. Last fall the plans were beset by public concerns meeting after meeting, until Crested Butte Mountain Resort officials decided to go back to the drawing board to come up with what community members and town officials alike have heralded as a much better version.
On Wednesday, April 30 the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission agreed that the plans were ready to move out of the public hearing stage and into one-on-one deliberations between the Planning Commission and the developers.
Mountaineer Square North is a continuation of the resort’s base area re-development. The recently completed Lodge at Mountaineer Square and the proposed Cimarron building mark the first phase of the base area’s overhaul.
The final phase, what CBMR is referring to as Mountaineer Square North, will take place on lands north and east of the Grand Lodge. This land currently holds the resort’s main parking lot, as well as additional parking for the Grand Lodge. The development will consist of six primary buildings and several smaller buildings, including a recreation center, new conference facilities, residential units and commercial space.
Last fall CBMR began a series of public hearings to solicit comments on the new plans for Mountaineer Square North. In December 2007 CBMR asked to postpone the public hearing process until a later date to incorporate elements of its recently completed branding study.
CBMR representatives appeared again before the Planning Commission with a revised Mountaineer Square North plan during a public hearing on April 3. That hearing was continued to Wednesday, April 30, marking the ninth hearing since the public process began.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, Mt. Crested Butte’s planning consultant Julie Ann Woods said she had brought a list of concerns and potential changes held over from previous public hearings, including the town’s residential development rights on the proposed aquatic center parcel and a roundabout that may be needed along Gothic Road. Woods asked the Planning Commission to consider whether these concerns were being addressed and if the process should move into the next phase.
One of the potential changes was adding office space into the bottom floor of the “artisan” units east of the Grand Lodge. CBMR’s planners indicated this would require adding another story to the building in order to keep the affordable housing units the office space would replace.
The commission agreed that offices would be a good use for the bottom floor, and having the extra commercial space would justify adding another story for the affordable housing units.
Another issue left unresolved from previous meetings was what to do with the town’s residential development rights for their parcel in Mountaineer Square. Through a trade agreement, Mt. Crested Butte will own two acres of land at the entrance to the development. This is where the town’s proposed aquatic recreation center would be built. The town also has zoning rights to build 67 residential units alongside the aquatic center, which town staff and CBMR planners have suggested might be a way to fund the day-to-day operations of the facility.
Up to Wednesday’s meeting, the Planning Commission has been considering a design limited to just a recreation center. But for the latest meeting Woods said CBMR had designed a single building with 67 residential units and a recreation center on the town’s behalf. Woods asked the Planning Commission to consider if the residential units were necessary, since they would require adding considerable height to the building.
Project architect David Kaselak of Zehren and Associates presented a sketch of what the building would look like. Kaselak described how a bulk of the residential units would be included in three stories that overhang the visitor drop-off area, which would be across from the intersection of Treasury and Emmons Roads.
Planning Commission chairman Dusty Demerson asked, “Is there any kind of (design) model like this in other communities?”
Mountaineer Square North lead designer Chris Dunn said, “Not that I know of,” and added that the most similar design would be a pool on top of a city building. Dunn said most recreation centers are in outlying areas of a community. Due to the nature of Mountaineer Square North and the tight confines of Mt. Crested Butte, Dunn said the residential/recreation center design was something to consider.
Woods agreed and said, “This is a cutting-edge kind of model—I wouldn’t want to discount it because of that.”
Faced with the need to eventually create the Mountaineer Square North design in its entirety, the Planning Commission has had trouble debating the need for residential units in the recreation center building. It is the Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) responsibility to create the final design of the building, and to fund the facility’s construction and day-to-day operation.
The Planning Commission agreed that residential units might be necessary in the design of the recreation center in order to cover operational costs, but a design with just a recreation center would currently be the one considered for approval.
Depending on the DDA’s progress in determining the funding and programming of the recreation center, the Planning Commission agreed that the town may have to come back through the Planned Unit Development (PUD) amendment process to get the building re-approved with a residential design. This process would include preliminary and final approval stages as well as public hearings.
During further public comments, Mt. Crested Butte resident Susan Eskew said she wasn’t entirely sure the town could afford a swimming pool/recreation center, and asked the commission to consider whether it was a good project for the town to pursue at this time.
Another major topic of conversation was a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Gothic and Treasury Roads.
The roundabout isn’t an official part of the development plans, as any improvements on Gothic Road would be in the town’s right-of-way and up to the town to construct.
However, CBMR has been including the roundabout in discussions to show how it could be incorporated with the plans for Mountaineer Square North. Traffic engineers for the town and CBMR have predicted that traffic improvements will be needed on Gothic Road as build-out of the town progresses, with a roundabout or stoplight at the corner of Gothic and Treasury.
Jason Cowles, a traffic engineer with Alpine Engineering, presented a diagram showing how large semi trucks could pass through the roundabout and other portions of Mountaineer Square. “What was shown was a worst-case scenario,” Cowles said, adding the depicted roundabout was as large as physically possible at the site and could be reduced. However, citing future construction traffic he said, “A big truck could have trouble getting into North Village if [the roundabout] is too small.”
The town’s traffic consultant, Bill Fox, agreed that a roundabout was preferable over a stoplight, and a good solution for Gothic Road. “The beauty of a roundabout is it never jams up—it’s yield on entry,” he said. Fox said he noticed that the large tractor trucks in the diagram did not use the inner “roll on” curb. He said the roundabout “could be smaller if necessary.”
Cowles cautioned that a similar roundabout designed by Alpine Engineering in Eagle drew concerns from the development community that it could be too small.
Demerson agreed that larger was better. “There is a phenomenal amount of development that is going to occur north of this… It seems to me to reduce this in any way would be a mistake,” he said.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge suggested a small town-owned ice rink should be added to Mountaineer Square, which could be accomplished by trading a portion of CBMR’s land with another parcel owned by the town, the free parking lot just north of the corner of Treasury and Gothic Road.
The ice rink would be smaller than a hockey rink, but would provide a wonderful place to gather, Goettge said. He said similar rinks had seen success attracting pedestrian crowds at ski resorts like Northstar at Tahoe and Beaver Creek.
Geottge cited the 2007 Community Plan, which among other points states the town should “provide the public facilities and amenities that will create an atmosphere conducive to retail success.” Goettge said, “are we actually doing that here, or could we do a better job?”
Mt. Crested Butte resident Craig McManus also said he thought the ice rink was a good idea, although he admitted that CBMR may lose potential real estate value in a residential building the ice rink would replace. ”I think the increase of the value in the retail businesses next to the ice rink will more than make that up… Businesses would be clamoring to get the space next to that,” he said.
After the meeting, CBMR real estate and sales director Michael Kraatz said the resort had considered an ice rink during the original planning of Mountaineer Square North. “We decided that we didn’t want to put in an ice rink. We’re going to be doing one at the North Village and we have other things going on at Mountaineer Square North… sufficient to capture peoples’ interest and keep them active,” Kraatz said, citing plans for a climbing wall and the town’s aquatic center.
The Mt. Crested Butte DDA will begin a series of public meetings to discuss the programming and facilities that should be included in the aquatic recreation center in early June, although a meeting date has not been finalized.
The Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission continued its deliberations on Wednesday, May 7.