Editor’s note: This letter was written to Mayor Alan Bernholtz and the Crested Butte Town Council, and is reprinted here at the author’s request.
To: The Honorable Alan Bernholtz, Mayor and The Crested Butte Town Council
Re: The Foothills annexation
As a citizen of Crested Butte and as one of the closest neighbors to the Foothills project (it is literally in my backyard), I have some concerns about this proposal that I ask you to take into consideration. As a former Councilman and Mayor, I sat through five different annexations, one presented by three different developers, so I am aware of the many factors you must consider and I thank you for your time and diligence in this matter.
My greatest concern is the dump site. The dump was open the first four or five years that I lived in Crested Butte and was open for the 96 years the town was in existence before that. I watched as cars, refrigerators, paint, huge amounts of metal and wood, even a house trailer were hauled to the dump and set on fire. The dump was closed in the early ‘80s when I was the director of the Mountain Express so I was very aware of the size and depth of the “cover-up” of the dump. Two episodes are very clear in my mind from this time. A TD-25 bulldozer sunk up over its treads one spring while trying to cover over the eastern edge of the dump. It was necessary to excavate a slot trench over 10 feet deep and at least 40 feet long to the machine from the Butte Avenue side to extricate the dozer. I recall in that excavation a great deal of debris being unearthed.
About the same time the county widened Gothic Road. Just north of Butte Avenue they had to dig down about ten feet to remove unstable soil and replace it with road base. The soil removed contained some very old garbage that had been obviously thrown out on either side of the road many, many years ago. That garbage, to the best of my memory, appeared down to the bottom of the 10 feet excavated. I believe the dump site is even larger than the seven to nine acres indicated on their maps and may in some places be deeper than the grade of Gothic Road.
It should be noted that this was not a land fill. It was a dump and anything, however toxic, was just tossed in. I have asked several contractors to estimate the time required to properly remove the debris. The shortest time span I heard was three to four months with others saying they don’t even want to venture a guess.
I have a great concern over the operation of what would essentially be an open pit mine—let me say that again, an open pit mine site—operating immediately behind my residence and next to town. Please consider the noise of the machines (beep, beep, beep) and the dust, possibly very toxic dust, that my neighborhood will be subjected to. The prevailing wind comes right down Paradise divide and over Poverty Gulch condos, home to five young children including a four month old.
I am greatly concerned that there will be an area of seven to nine acres of skinned and non-vegetated ground standing for who knows how long. This is not just speculation. A friend living closest to the school project has left her home for over two months now and she is up-wind of that project.
I ask you to consider the ramifications if the project is not completed in a timely manner. One only needs to look at the Andesite Point project, the Nevada Ridge project (next to San Moritz), the Villas second phase, and the Wildhorse project all in Mt. Crested Butte to witness projects that have had great amounts of exposed and dust producing ground for at least two summers and looking like nothing is going to be done soon. Anyone who has been in Crested Butte for over 15 or 20 years surely remembers the pit that stood where the Treasury Center is for over three winters and summers. To say it was ugly is an understatement. I know the town will require bonds to insure the developer will complete their work but it is very difficult to perfect those bonds as long as any work is going on. One has to look only as far as Buckhorn Ranch to see the problems the county has had in this regard. The notices of foreclosure on two properties of one of the partners in Gunnison County causes me even greater concern. The timing and extent of re-vegetation must also be considered and nailed down.
One must also consider the great amount of energy that will be expended in the removal and transportation of the dump. The developer indicated at least 60,000 cubic yards of material might be hauled away. At ten cubic yards a dump truck, that’s a cool 6,000 truck loads, please add another 6,000 trips for the return, going down either 6th or 7th Street past the Town Park. Given a five day work week over 13 weeks, this comes out to about 185 one-way trips a day to the county land fill east of Gunnison or to Grand Junction if the waste is toxic. We haven’t even counted bringing in roadbase and paving materials on top of that. I cannot guess how much diesel will be burned by the dump trucks, the excavators, the front end loaders, and the separators to be used in this mining process. I know the Council has been very concerned about this being a “green” project so I ask that you consider this use of energy.
My second great concern is about the town selling over 2.5 acres to the developer. The town staff expressed concern that the public works/bus barn site would not accommodate a new bus barn just a couple of years ago. The new bus barn is now there, the large barn from the Town Ranch has been moved to the site, the town has lost the storage area on the Town Ranch site, the Town has turned down the Nordic Center and the animal rehab people to put a building on the site in the last several years. I understand that the town can use a piece of land just north of the town shop for snow storage and possible summer storage but it does not seem to be deeded to the town even if it is a comparable site. In all my years on the council we always tried to acquire as much land as possible for future, undetermined town uses and selling land, no matter what the price, strikes me as shortsighted. I understand that the justification for this is to achieve a grid system by including Eighth Street. It is a very high price to meet that goal.
The third concern I have is the water issue. It is imperative to have wet water come with the project. I would be very concerned if that water were to be delivered from the Slate River due to the mine wastes up there. As my friend from the Roaring Judy fish hatchery once told me, don’t eat any fish caught in the Slate. Would adding such water to our present water system call for additional treatment? Another concern is the physical delivery system of any water. If water has to be pumped up from the Slate or Washington Gulch drainages, one must consider the energy expended and any cost to the town in pumping.
I am also concerned with the great number of zoning changes asked for by the developer. The lot sizes and density granted in each zone of town was determined after many years of consideration and thought. To change so many rules for an annexation seems disingenuous, unfair to the present landowners in town, and setting a bad precedent.
I am concerned that Avenues A, B, and C do not intersect Gothic Road at a 90 degree angle. We have all watched as the state and county expended a considerable amount of money to correct the situation at Highway 135 and Ohio Creek Road and I know the state and county have talked about re-aligning the Cement Creek Road/Highway 135 intersection.
I am fully aware that every annexation comes with pluses and minuses. It is always difficult to achieve that acceptable balance. All annexations have the minuses of increased density, traffic, and whether the annexation will pay for services that need to be delivered. However, I have never had to deal with any annexation that has so many significant minuses that could potentially be harmful to the citizens of Crested Butte.
The developer has stated to me several times that the Town of Crested Butte has designated this property for annexation. I participated in those planning meetings that we had some time ago that identified annexable land. An overlay was put on the maps that included wetlands, unstable slopes, and other geologic problems. At no time was the dump and the problems buried there discussed. It was an oversight on the part of everyone involved including myself not to talk about it then but it needs to be considered at this time.
There is an old saying to let sleeping dogs lie. The only good idea I’ve heard about the dump in to cover it with solar panels. We aren’t waking up a cocker spaniel here. I think there are a couple of Rottweilers out there along with three dozen pit bulls ready to bite the town on the butt.
Thank you for your consideration.