Council wants to learn more about snow-cat ski proposal
In an effort to be “consistent” and find out more information, the Crested Butte Town Council will ask the proponents of the proposed snow-cat ski operation in the Irwin drainage to come to the Monday meeting. The council will then consider whether to comment to the Forest Service before the comment period ends next month.
Before discussing whether to ask for more information, mayor Alan Bernholtz, councilman Billy Rankin and town attorney John Belkin all stepped down from discussion since each are employed for Irwin Backcountry Guides, the proponents of the ski operation.
The proposal calls for summer and winter activities on more than 2,000 acres around the old Irwin Lodge and Lake Irwin. Snow-cat skiing would be the primary winter activity. Hiking and mountaineering would presumably be the summer focus.
Town planner John Hess told the council similar uses in the area were approved by the Forest Service between 1986 and 2002. “They plan to initially use the old movie house as a base and have a toilet in there,” he said, referring to a smaller cabin near the Irwin Lodge.
“If this was Snodgrass this wouldn’t be the first time we were hearing about this,” said councilman Skip Berkshire. “I want the same transparency. I want to know if there will be any restrictions to the general public. Will people still be able to hike Scarp’s Ridge?”
Mayor pro tem Leah Williams agreed. “It would be beneficial to get more information,” she said. “We need to be consistent, especially with our watershed ordinance.”
“I hear it on the street and at dinner parties,” added councilman Reed Betz. “People are curious and I think we should give them an opportunity to come and listen if they want.”
The town placed the issue on the agenda for the next meeting, Monday, May 18.
Council seats are opening
The council agreed to go with a coordinated election with Gunnison County. Under that scenario, the last day to file a nomination petition to run for council is August 25. The first day to pick up a petition is August 4. Write-in candidates have until August 31. Election day is Tuesday, November 3.
“It’s time for someone else to step in here,” said mayor Alan Bernholtz, a ten-year veteran of the council. Also up for election are councilmen Berkshire, Billy Rankin and Leah Williams. No official decisions from the council members have been announced.
Alpenglow in a bind
The council approved a special event permit for six Alpenglow concerts this summer. Unfortunately, Center for the Arts executive director Jenny Birnie told the council that at the moment, there is funding for only four concerts. “We are in the process of fundraising to raise enough money for the whole slate of concerts,” she said. “But right now, we can only afford four. We’ll keep you informed.”
Bernholtz speaks for planes over buses
Councilwoman Kimberly Metsch told the council that the Rural Transportation Authority would be holding a public comment meeting on Thursday, May 14 in the Crested Butte council chambers, to solicit comment on where to cut the RTA budget. “The budget is extremely tight and we want to know where the public thinks we should trim,” said Metsch, an RTA board member.
Bernholtz said he would be out of town for the meeting but asked Metsch to include his thoughts. “I think airline service should be a priority above all else,” he said. “I think that’s what the RTA was founded on.”
“Even if that money only goes to guarantee flights three months a year?” Metsch asked. “The RTA doesn’t guarantee summer flights. Those jets just keep flying in.”
“Hey, the bus is great and it is a good amenity for the county but airlines and getting people here is what the money was originally meant for,” responded Bernholtz. “That is important.”
Butte Bucks this summer?
Councilman Berkshire floated the idea of the town sponsoring a summer “Butte Bucks” program. The idea has been successful in the winter holiday period where “Butte Bucks” are available to people to spend in local stores. People can pay $80 in cash for $100 in Butte Bucks that are then accepted at local participating businesses.
Berkshire suggested the council consider funding $5,000 to the program that could generate $25,000 in local sales.
“I’d be willing to talk about it but we are hurting,” said Bernholtz.
“I think we should pursue a summer Butte Bucks program,” seconded Williams. “I think the Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a ‘shop locally’ campaign and maybe we can tie it in together.”
The town staff will investigate the potential of a summer Butte Bucks promotion.