Dear Mayor and Members of the Council,
For the reasons stated below, we believe that the Town should turn down the proposed “Foothills” annexation, and turn to a discussion of how better to promote the Town’s long-term prosperity and environment.
The only advantages that we see accruing to the town from this development would be (1) some additional employment in the construction field and (2) some affordable housing. However,
–the construction employment would depend on whether the annexation would be built out in the foreseeable future. As discussed below, that is very questionable. In any case, such construction would not contribute to the prosperity of Crested Butte over the longer term.
–affordable housing is an important question for Crested Butte, but the addition of a number of large houses to the town would increase the need for service people. The development would therefore increase the need for affordable housing rather than resolving the problem, and there are today a number of local units that could or should be used for affordable housing, that are standing empty. The Gunnison Country Times for August 27 reported that CBMR and Mt. Crested Butte have been finding “…affordable housing not an easy sell these days.” Inside the town of Crested Butte, there are a number of deed-restricted housing units–as many as sixty, according to a Town employee–that are required to be offered for rent as affordable housing but are not so offered. There is also room to build new affordable housing within the Town’s present limits.
The disadvantages and drawbacks to the proposed annexation are both numerous and serious. They include:
1. The water problem. The scientific consensus is that coming years will see a drier climate in the Mountain West. Even if in the interim there are occasional years with higher precipitation, all in all we will have less water in the future. The developer has failed to tell the Town (a) where and how they would obtain water for their development, (b) whether they could do so without posing an additional burden, financial or otherwise, on the Town, and (c) whether they could guarantee that water would be available for the development even in case of the prolonged drought that we must expect sometime in the future.
2. The pollution problem. The developer proposes to build houses and streets on the site of the former town dump, where for almost a century small and large items (ranging in size at least up to refrigerators) were dumped without restriction by both town and county residents. The amount of toxic material can only be guessed at. To remove it would require a major earthmoving operation that would cause toxic dust and a threat to families now living nearby, and a major trucking operation to remove the material to Grand Junction.
3. The wildlife and wetlands problem. Some years ago, as a Town document notes, the Crested Butte Land Trust developed the concept of a Slate River Wetlands Preserve six miles long and as much as a mile wide, running from Oh-Be-Joyful Creek down to the Rozman Ranch. This is an elk migration corridor and, according to the same Town document, DOW data show that the whole Middle Slate River Valley is mule deer range, black bear range, and mountain lion range. This wildlife corridor and range would be destroyed by the proposed development, which would span the river and occupy the lands adjacent to it.
4. The traffic problem. If the development should ever be built out, the vast majority of residents there would use their cars to reach downtown Crested Butte and beyond. This would amount to what we believe might be more than 1,500 additional trips each day. SInce it is already difficult to make a left turn onto Gothic Road for much of the year, there would be a sizable increase in traffic along existing side streets. Downtown parking would become still more difficult. Air pollution would increase.
5. The National Historic District and BOZAR problem. The Town of Crested Butte received the designation of National Historic District in 1974. The proposed annexation would seriously damage the rationale for maintaining this designation, both by producing sprawl and by creating larger houses on smaller lots than BOZAR now permits. It would make a mockery of the statement on the Town’s website that “As a National Historic District the Town is very sensitive to the appearance and scale of structures within the Town.” The annexation would create a precedent for larger houses on smaller lots that could be cited in the future by anyone seeking to build a big house on a small lot inside town. In a word, it would destroy BOZAR.
6. The open space problem. The development would considerably reduce the amount of open space per resident; the developer proposes to make up for this by providing some open space miles away. However, one of the most attractive features of Crested Butte is that it is a small historic town bordered by open space. The proposed development would create urban sprawl that would damage the esthetic value of Crested Butte. It would have a negative economic effect since it would deter visitors seeking a small historic place, and it would have a negative effect on both livability and property values for both Town residents and property owners nearby.
There is finally the overall question of the financial responsibility of the developers, and the likely future of the development if it is approved. The real-estate scene while improved is not bright. (As of September 12, Realtor.com shows that 314 homes are for sale in zip codes 81224 and 81225, and that some have been on the market for two years or more.) A prudent estimate is that even if the development were to be approved, and even if streets, street lights, etc., were put in, much or most of the development would remain empty of houses for the foreseeable future, a serious blight on our landscape.
For all these reasons we urge Town government to deny the application for this development without delay.
We have, incidentally, heard it argued that the Town should approve the annexation because otherwise the developer will go to the County. That is no argument for the Town to act irresponsibly. Moreover, if in the end the developer does go to the County, many of the problems outlined above will weigh against development.
Mary Jane Bridges