Council goes over concerns but feels this is the best available plan
It took months instead of the originally expected weeks, but a 50-page Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the RE1J school district and town of Crested Butte was approved Monday evening by the Town Council.
The council approved the IGA subject to some minor changes made at the council meeting and town attorney approval of warranties to be included in the document that haven’t been fully reviewed. The ceremonial signing is set for the May 11 school board meeting.
The town and the school board say the IGA contains detailed construction terms; that’s one reason given for the size of the document and amount of time spent to conclude the IGA process. The council also confirmed the BOZAR (Board of Zoning and Architectural Review) decision to approve the site plan and turn over the land to the school district.
Monday evening’s discussion took more than two hours and again touched on traffic concerns, the size of the new Tommy V baseball field and other issues that have been debated for several months.
“Probably the most contentious issue was parking,” explained Crested Butte building and zoning director Bob Gillie. “Several adjustments were considered and made through the public process.”
Gillie said the traffic in and out of the current parking lot has been separated in the plan. He said school bus parking will be “divorced” from the parking lot and relocated on Red Lady Avenue. The Eighth Street pedestrian corridor will be enhanced. A six-foot high fence will be built to separate the school playground from Red Lady Avenue. With Ninth Street being a primary access to the high school parking lot behind the expansion, some more pressure will be taken off the current parking lot.
“I’m really excited to be at this point,” said mayor Alan Bernholtz. “But I want to make sure we’ve thoroughly considered all options.”
During the site plan discussion, Bernholtz grilled the staff about whether an entrance to the current parking lot could be made somewhere at the north end of the property by Red Lady and Seventh Street.
He asked if the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) had been approached about a turning lane being built from the highway into the school. He asked if he was the only one who thought it was crazy for the pedestrian walkway at Red Lady Avenue and Eighth Street to guide kids through the bus parking area.
He wanted to be sure that the plan would discourage kids being dropped off at Red Lady Avenue. He asked if the current soccer field could be moved at all to accommodate another road on the west side of the property. “It’s not a great site,” he stated.
“Keep it in context,” countered Gillie.
BOZAR member Glenn Michael told the council that in the board review, everyone agreed the “building site was problematic given the one main artery. We tried so many things and this looked like the best plan,” he said. “We all had some problems with the proposal but overall, 95 percent of it was a good plan. BOZAR’s biggest issue was the intersection at Seventh and Red Lady, but we couldn’t stop the plan over that one issue.”
School superintendent Jon Nelson told the council the architects had looked at every possibility. “We sent a letter to CDOT in December asking to move toward a turning lane off of Highway 135,” he said. “Our architects contacted them again about the issue in February. We asked and we assume it is on the table.”
Gillie said CDOT doesn’t work fast and such a highway improvement wouldn’t be cheap.
Councilmember Leah Williams didn’t want the issue to disappear. “This is a loose end that we can’t answer at the moment,” she said. “But hopefully we can put the idea someplace and continue to follow up on the concern.”
School board president M.J. Vosburg assured Bernholtz his questions had been addressed throughout the process. “Our traffic experts recommended we disperse traffic flow out of the parking lot.”
Nelson also assured Bernholtz that guiding kids by parked buses would be safe. “Our drivers are trained to deal with kids,” he said. “There’s enough space so the crosswalk won’t be blocked. It is tied in with the safe route and there will be a crossing guard there.”
Parent and BOZAR member Liz Sawyer agreed. “I hear where you are coming from Alan, but it has been thought out,” she said. “I live on Eighth Street and I think funneling the kids there is okay with a crossing guard.”
Crested Butte chief marshal Tom Martin said the revised plan was a good one. He said safety was addressed and improvements were already being seen along Red Lady.
Berkshire wanted a sidewalk to run along Ninth Street to keep pedestrians and vehicles separated. The council agreed to look at that in the future.
Bernholtz wanted the community gardens to be placed in a spot with adequate sun. The staff promised to look for the best possible site, including current vacant land slated for affordable housing.
As it stands, the new Tommy V baseball field will be 330 feet to center field and 300 feet down the right field line, with 40 feet between home plate and the backstop.
“The field is as big as possible, given the land constraints. Some areas of the field are bigger than the current field,” explained Gillie.
Resident John Wirsing argued that traffic was still a problem and would only get worse as the kids aged and more kids began driving. “There aren’t any big changes with this traffic plan,” he said. “Kids in the current kindergarten class will be driving in 10 years. And there are a lot of them.”
Annie Tunkey came back to the council and reiterated her concerns over traffic. “Please just be aware of big trucks coming and going when the kids are out there during the construction phase,” she said. “And I see a lot of people walking with their dogs before work when kids are being dropped off so I foresee some conflict early in the morning on Ninth Street.”
Williams agreed that the site wasn’t perfect and the plan wasn’t totally ideal. “But a lot of thought has obviously gone into this,” she said. “This morning I didn’t think I would support this, but I think we should move ahead.” In fact, Williams made the motion to approve the site plan.
“I don’t love it but everyone has worked hard,” said Bernholtz. “It is the best we could do with what we’ve got to work with right now.”
The council agreed and unanimously okayed the site plan.
The IGA discussion was faster and focused on technical and legal aspects of the deal. The council rolled with the advice of town attorney John Belkin and approved the IGA, subject to minor changes and the attorney’s being comfortable with the warranties sent by the school district.
“I never thought the day would come… I mean I never doubted the day would come when this would get done,” said Bernholtz.
“Amen,” seconded Vosburg.
The council voted to approve the IGA, with councilman Reed Betz voting against it, stating he wasn’t comfortable approving the document until the IGA was totally completed.
While Vosburg had a pen ready to use to sign the document, that action will wait until next Monday.