Latest draft of revisions is still weeks away
The process of revising the county’s Special Development Project Regulations—commonly referred to as 1041 regs—has caused some concern among proponents of lift-served skiing on Snodgrass Mountain and driven one longtime resident to lobby local municipalities to try to stop it.
The county planner seems to think those opposed to the revisions are getting ahead of the process, but agreed that there are ways to address their concerns, such as carving out a special district for Snodgrass in the regulations.
Jamie Watt, a local businessman and member of the Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority (DDA), says, despite the revisions to the so-called “1041” regulations, not enough has been done to keep Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s proposed expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain clear of heightened regulations he believes are aimed at a possible molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons.
“If these regulations are geared toward stopping the mine and leaving Snodgrass [without lifts], then they are the wrong regulations,” says Watt.
Over the past year, the county Planning Department has been updating the state-mandated regulations, which are one way for local governments to manage the development of extremely large projects that will have a significant impact on the area’s economy, environment or population.
The regulations were first revised in 1994, at which time requirements for recreational development that included marketing and feasibility studies, a housing needs assessment and an assessment of a project’s impact on man-made and natural resources, wildlife and the environment, were added.
Watt says even if the expansion meets the specific requirements for a recreational development, the county could continue to bring it back into the permitting process based on another area of impact, like geological or water use.
“If [the county] wanted to, they could also bring Snodgrass in under other areas. It is a very onerous and duplicative process,” he says.
County planning director Joanne Williams agrees that the process is long, but says once an applicant is through the process as a recreational development there would be no reason to bring the applicant back for review in another area.
“The regulation certainly isn’t written [in a way that would bring a developer back after approval]. If a project meets the requirements of the regulation, it goes forward; if it doesn’t it goes back,” explained Williams, adding that she could not speak directly to the expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain because no application for the project has been filed with the county.
As for Watt’s suggestion that the process is duplicative, Williams says the county has taken measures to coordinate the requirements of the federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and those of the 1041 regulations. Going through NEPA, therefore could actually shorten the county’s permitting process, Williams says.
The NEPA process is intended to identify any negative impacts a project might have on the surrounding environment, while the special development regulations focus on how a project could affect a community and its resources, as well as addressing environmental concerns.
“The current regulation has language that says the intent of the documents is not to duplicate the NEPA process, but that the information a company has put together for NEPA can be submitted to the county for the special development project regulations,” says Williams. “The original concept was to get all agencies involved with a developer from the beginning to figure out what permits were required and that should shorten the discussion.”
Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has stated its position that the draft resolution exceeds the scope of Gunnison County’s land use authority under state law. According to a CBMR newsletter, “It is CBMR’s position that the Draft resolution may not regulate Recreational Development, that it exceeds the scope of permissible regulation of Matters of State Interest, and that the Draft Resolution Fails to recognize the limited authority of the County over development on federal lands.”
The newsletter goes on to state that “CBMR is hopeful that it can work with the county to craft a set of regulations that are compliant with state law and that recognize the limited authority of the county over developments on federal lands.”
As a way to keep Snodgrass out of the 1041 process completely, members of the DDA board in Mt. Crested Butte have followed through with Watt’s request and written the county asking to either exempt the Snodgrass expansion from the process or create a special geographic area that would hold the expansion to a standard different from that required by the 1041 regulations. The town of Mt. Crested Butte has also written a letter of concern to the county.
Watt wonders, “Why don’t they say Snodgrass is exempt, the discussion is over? That is an easy way out, not that recreation should be out of the picture in the future.”
CBMR’s director of real estate and planning Michael Kraatz says, “We wrote a letter to the county attorney and planner on October 2. In that we outlined our concerns and then made a couple of suggestions” like excluding the Snodgrass expansion from the regulations or created a special geographic area.
Creating a special geographic area would put the resort in a similar situation as the coal mines in the North Fork Valley, the Gold Basin Industrial Park in Gunnison and Crested Butte South, allowing county approval under a separate set of regulations.
According to Williams, the county could make the decision to exempt Snodgrass from the requirements of the 1041 regulations.
“It’s like any other part of the document; as it’s changed the Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission can consider making exemptions while some areas are statutorily required. Then we can amend the draft to reflect those changes to the requirements,” says Williams. “That is part of the discussion about how the regulations should be changed.”
Williams said it could be several more weeks before the third draft of the Special Project Development Regulations is available for public review.