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Foothills conflict ready to push plan off precipice

Timeout vs. legal action

The Foothills of Crested Butte annexation proposal may be blowing up. The town is ready to take legal action against the developers to collect money owed the town and the developers say they have lost confidence in the town’s annexation process.
The Foothills proposal has been going through the town planning pipeline for about two years. Currently it calls for about 44 acres north of town to be annexed in Crested Butte. The proposal on the table allows for about 160 homes. One big stumbling block is that part of the property lies on the old community dump and no one knows what lies beneath that section of land. Last December the developers indicated they would be conducting a site characterization study on the dumpsite.
But at the moment, the town is more concerned with getting paid for its time. One option under consideration by the town is putting a lien on the property north of Crested Butte since the developers owe the town nearly $98,000 under a reimbursement agreement signed at the beginning of the process.
“We are looking at all of our options to pursue collections,” said Town Manager Susan Parker.
The developers are currently in arrears for $97,795.63 to the town. That includes almost $1,800 in penalties and interest, and puts the proponents in breach of the annexation reimbursement agreement that they and the town signed in 2008.
A letter of demand was sent to the developers last week and a deadline to pay the bill was set for Monday, January 25. As of Tuesday, the town had not received any money from the developers, Fairways GH Paradise, LLC.
The developers say they are reevaluating the whole situation because they’ve lost confidence in the process. “We have spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on this plan in good faith but we don’t see an end in sight,” explained Fairways partner Brant Bryan. “We think this annexation process is broken. They are good people but we have lost confidence in the process. We are determining how to proceed or even whether to proceed with the town.”
 The town has tapped into the original $25,000 deposit. “As part of the demand letter, we made it clear that if we weren’t paid by the 25th, we could keep the $25,000 they placed on deposit at the start of the annexation proceedings and instigate all avenues to collect the debt,” said Parker.
According to the town’s demand letter, the proponents have ignored three invoices. As part of the annexation agreement, the developers have agreed to reimburse the town for expenses associated with the project. They have 20 days after each invoice is sent to protest the invoice but the town has never received such a protest.
The town made it clear in its letter to the developers that if the money was not paid by January 25, the town would “promptly thereafter institute appropriate legal proceedings against Fairways.” The letter also states that the town of Crested Butte will “vigorously pursue collection of these funds as well as any attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with collecting these amounts.”
As part of the annexation agreement, the developers had agreed to reimburse the town for staff and consulting expenses associated with the project. They have been billed more than $180,000 under the agreement, and they paid the invoices sent before July 2009.
“We think this land should be annexed and be part of town,” said Bryan. “We’re not sure what our next steps are. Our assumption is that the land will eventually be annexed but we are trying to figure out how to fix the process. This one isn’t working.
“As far as the bills, we are taking a timeout,” continued Bryan. “Our partners keep asking why we should keep writing checks if we don’t see an end in site with this process. The town and the staff don’t seem to have an incentive to get the project completed.”
So as it stands, no one knows at the moment where the annexation stands.

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