“This is not the time for negotiations”
While some citizens of Mt. Crested Butte have voiced their concerns about a high-density annexation proposal that includes several condos on a small parcel of land in the northwest corner of town, the Town Council is ready to move the annexation process forward.
During a public hearing on Tuesday, March 17 to consider the parcel’s eligibility for annexation, some citizens said the proposed high-density housing went against the town’s 2007 Community Plan, and the development would provide no clear benefit to the town.
The proponent of the annexation, Gary Garland, president of Brush Creek Holdings LLC, argued that the Town Council should not be considering public benefits or density at this stage in the annexation process, as they were only being asked to consider the parcel’s eligibility for annexation into the town. Garland said density and public benefits were details that would be ironed out during the next round of public meetings as the annexation agreement is negotiated.
Last year Brush Creek Holdings started the annexation process for the same 8.8-acre parcel of land, at the time calling it the Astronaut Parcel. The council approved the parcel’s eligibility for annexation, but Brush Creek never completed the rest of the annexation process.
The Astronaut proposal called for a total of 18 units, but since that time Garland said Brush Creek Holdings had adjusted their plans because of CBMR’s efforts to expand lift-served skiing onto Snodgrass Mountain.
Garland said there was a lift being planned on the current Snodgrass plan that would terminate at the edge of the proposed annexation. “In response to that, we increased the number of units to get some higher density around the base of those lifts,” Garland said.
The new sketch proposal for the annexation, re-named Forest Hollow, calls for 43 units, including several single-family lots with secondary dwellings, one small condo, and three large condos. The largest multifamily lot calls for a building with a total of 20 units.
One month ago, the town held a public hearing to consider the parcel’s eligibility, but that public hearing was voided due to a mix-up in the annexation process. The council first had to pass a resolution stating the parcel was in conformance with state statutes for annexation. Since Garland gave a more detailed presentation of the annexation proposal during the first hearing, he kept his comments short during last Tuesday’s meeting, and focused on responding to the public comments.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge argued that the proposed high-density development was inappropriate for the northwest corner of town and cited a town resolution from 1995 that states in order to approve a parcel’s eligibility for annexation, the council must find the proposal in full compliance with the town’s “Comprehensive Plan,” which is now the 2007 Community Plan.
In addition, the council must find an economic need for additional subdivided lands, and must determine that the annexation will provide amenities or facilities desired by the town.
Goettge said the current proposal was in violation of a part of the Community Plan, which states that density should radiate outward from the center of town, ending in low density on the town’s boundaries. He said the annexation proposal contained zero open space and did not show clear economic benefits or provide amenities desirable to the town.
Goettge said the proposed development was ”16 times as dense as Promontory,” an adjacent development planned by Crested Butte Mountain Resort. He noted that CBMR was averaging 50 percent open space in its developments.
In regard to desirable amenities, Goettge said for the annexation encompassing what is now called Prospect, CBMR provided the town with 17 acres of deeded park space, a conference facility (what is now the Mountaineer Square conference facility), an impact fund to support Mountain Express, and road paving along the northern sections of Gothic Road and roads in the subdivision. “That’s quite a list of amenities,” he said.
Garland had previously stated that having more warm-bed facilities would be a benefit to the town. In response to that, Goettge said, “Certainly a warm-bed condo cannot be counted as a public amenity or facility, or CBMR would have said their hotel is a public benefit.”
High Country Citizens’ Alliance board member Sue Navy said she was attending the Foothills annexation meetings in Crested Butte and was hearing a lot of concerns about wetlands. She wondered how the town of Mt. Crested Butte felt about the potential wetlands impacts caused by the annexation proposal. Navy also asked the council to consider the annexation’s impact on an adjacent conservation easement.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Jamie Watt spoke in support of the annexation proposal, noting that he came on his own accord and was not asked by Garland. “It makes economic sense for the town, not just for the developer,” Watt said. “Here we have a termination point for a major lift… that’s customer service. I think that’s going to be a big benefit on the hill.”
Furthermore, Watt said the wording in the town’s community plan regarding density radiating out from the center was “unreasonable.” He pointed out three other areas on a town map with high-density developments on the edge of town. “We have a special case here. This nine-acre parcel will enhance our town,” Watt said.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Susan Eskew asked, “Have lifts been approved on Snodgrass? We’re basing density on the assumption that lifts will be approved.”
In response to the public comments, Garland said, “I want to keep the Town Council focused. This is not the time for negotiations… I’m asking you to decide if it’s eligible for annexation.” He admitted that Snodgrass had not been approved and density could change.
Regarding public benefits, Garland said, “All those benefits CBMR gave—those were all negotiated in the planning process.” Regarding open space requirements he said, “My project does not have open space because there’s two million acres right across from it,” referring to national forest property.
Mayor William Buck closed the public hearing and later that evening the council took up the issue again to consider a resolution approving the parcel’s eligibility.
Town manager Fitzpatrick noted that the property was already within the jurisdiction of the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District and the Crested Butte Fire Protection District. However, water, sewer and electrical facilities have not yet been extended to the parcel.
Community development director Bill Racek said the staff was looking for some discussion and directions from the council to prepare a resolution they could sign at their next meeting.
He agreed with Garland that some things like public benefits would be determined during negotiations for the annexation agreement.
Racek also repeated parts of the town code and Community Plan Goettge had cited earlier, specifically the statement about density radiating outward. Racek said the council must decide if the current proposal does not fly in the face of that provision. “That doesn’t mean the density Gary is proposing at this point in the sketch plan is the density you’re going to end up with,” Racek said.
“I want to be clear, if we proceed past this step, based on the town’s Community Plan, the density, as a basis for negotiation will be the density he’s suggesting and we’ll have to demonstrate in some way that [high] density is not appropriate based on easements, physiographic features, et cetera. We can’t just turn around [and lower the density] and say we didn’t mean what we said. For Gary to enter into this thing he needs to know if a number like 40 can fly,” Racek said.
Racek said the council could add a condition to their resolution stating that density and public benefits would be decided later.
Garland said he would be comfortable with that sort of condition. “We’re not going to be deciding numbers tonight. It may get cut in half—it may end up 40 units, whatever, that’s to happen at a later date,” he said.
Acting town attorney Cathy Greene agreed that a condition on the resolution would be appropriate if the council had any concerns.
Councilmember Mike Kube said he didn’t have any concerns signing the resolution. “If the only difference is the density and the density has yet to be determined.”
Councilmember Dave Clayton agreed. “I don’t have a problem with the annexation of the parcel per say… Without the density being determined here I don’t have a problem moving forward.”
Buck asked Garland how his plans would change if Snodgrass didn’t get approved. Garland said he’d be reducing density.
Kube asked Racek why there was no resolution ready. “Wouldn’t the same resolution [from 2008] apply? You seem to have some concerns about it,” Kube said.
“The density is clearly much greater than what was originally proposed, and the town’s Community Plan clearly says the density is supposed to start near the center of town,” Racek said.
“That statement is in such a vacuum to me,” Kube said, with the consideration that density was to be determined.
“I know I’m dragging it out, but I want to be very careful with this whole process,” Racek said.
The council directed staff to prepare a resolution for their next meeting, finding the parcel eligible for annexation, and with the condition that density and amenities would be determined later in the process.