No council deal breakers but some individual heartburn
After two long meetings between the Crested Butte Town Council and the developers hoping to annex the 44 acres just north of town, there appear to be no major “deal breakers” in the initial concept of the proposal. The two sides met for three hours Monday, December 15 and while councilmen had individual objections to some of the plan, there appeared to be nothing that would stop the proposal in its early stages.
The Slate River annexation is being spearheaded by Cypress Foothills LP of Dallas. The council is looking at a concept phase of the plan in order to speak freely and make suggestions to the developers. The property is located to the east of Gothic Road as one leaves town heading to Mt. Crested Butte.
The proposal calls for approximately 115 units to be constructed on 75 lots. The developers have said they will pay for cleaning up the old town landfill that lies beneath some of the property. There are trails, parks and affordable housing proposed. There is the idea of perhaps relocating the fire hall to the area.
The council generally indicated they were fine with the proposed density. They like the idea of the applicants building another affordable housing rental complex similar to Anthracite Place, set to begin construction next summer by True Value. But the council also wants to see affordable lots interspersed throughout the development.
There was some consternation with the developers cleaning up the portion of the old dump that lies beneath town property in the current public works yard near the bus barn. As part of the clean up of that land, the developers hope to turn that portion of the public works yard into a park. That would eliminate about a quarter of that facility and the developers would get to count that land toward the park requirement. Not all the council thought that was appropriate.
Five of seven council members were okay with the idea of going away from the town’s grid system on the east side of the Slate River, the idea being that the more “natural flow of roads” would provide a more defined buffer for wetlands in the area. Glenn Michel and Shaun Matusewicz were adamantly against not using the grid system.
“We want to facilitate a productive dialogue and get any deal breakers out early,” town planner Michael Yerman told the council.
Michel wanted it made clear that while a pre-annexation agreement would be struck between the council and applicant, the details could change as the process went along. “That would be a non-binding agreement,” he said. “So it should be clear to everyone that things could change.”
Losing public works property
Councilperson Jim Schmidt said he had a big issue with the town losing a quarter of the current public works yard. “Normally if the development added 10 percent more units we would be asking for a 10 percent increase for public works,” he said. “Instead we are losing 25 percent. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m willing to consider remediation of the dump on town land but I have a hard time with that.”
“We would want the applicant to provide a facilities master plan for that area,” said Yerman.
“That makes sense to see if that land can be used more efficiently,” added councilperson Roland Mason. “I’m not opposed to even moving some of the buildings over there. That’s where a master plan comes in. There’s a lot to consider.”
“This is probably the last annexation the town will do so the growth will be finished,” said councilman Skip Berkshire. “Do we really need more land for public works? That’s the role of the master plan.”
“I’ve talked to public works director Rodney Due and he feels there will be a need for more land in the future,” responded Schmidt. “I live near there and I see that it gets used. It is easy to say move it somewhere else, but where? I’m inclined to listen to Rodney. I wish there was an easy answer but there isn’t.”
Yerman said the staff understood Schmidt’s concern, which is why a third party consultant should be hired to produce a master plan for the area.
“It seems like a lot hinges on this so we would all want to know the outcome of such a master plan pretty soon,” said Schmidt.
“We recognize that we will have to work with you to make that public works yard more efficient,” said Cypress attorney Marcus Lock.
When it comes to parks, the developers are proposing everything from a U-12 soccer field behind the current Poverty Gulch affordable housing area to a river walk area along the Slate River that bisects the land, to a large, undeveloped park in the northeast area of the annexation.
The council questioned how much developed park space they wanted to absorb, given the town’s funding issues with park maintenance.
“When we develop block 80 for affordable housing we will lose the dirt jumps so maybe that can go in one of the park areas,” suggested Matusewicz.
“Whether it is ultimately improved or unimproved park space, after remediating the dump, we will all want that area to be irrigated,” said Schmidt.
Michel indicated the applicant would likely want a developed park to enhance the attractiveness of the development.
Cypress vice president Cameron Aderhold agreed in general and understood the council’s concern about future cost of the parks but said an economic impact study would be helpful to analyze the overall development.
“I’m worried about creating new parks that people will drive to. Is there a better way to do it?” asked Berkshire. “The proposed river park is really a good idea. Does the other natural park really work?”
“What’s the line between open space and park?” asked councilperson Chris Ladoulis. “I like Skip’s idea of trying new ideas. Parks are not necessarily bulldozed flat land that is irrigated.”
“I like the proposed mix of maintained and non-maintained parks,” said Matusewicz. “Maybe there can be a place for a bandshell. That is something needed.”
Commercial property along the highway is a concern
When it came to general land use, the idea of how much commercial property to include was a point of contention. “I think having commercial within the development is better and a great amenity for the neighborhood,” said Michel. “A small grocery or liquor store integrated in there would be good. It would allow people to walk to get a cup a coffee or pick up something they need.”
“I completely disagree, especially how it is proposed,” countered Schmidt. “The town has always taken a strong stand against stringing out commercial between the two towns in the Gothic corridor. If we string it out, it opens it up for other land in the corridor to do the same. There could be a hotel or gas station out there. It is totally the wrong way to go.
“Plus there is already a store nearby,” continued Schmidt, referring to the Gas Café. “The main thing is keeping delineation with the town. Seeing strung-out commercial as you enter a town, like Montrose, would be just horrible for us. I’d probably vote against the whole annexation if we allow commercial along the highway.”
In response to a question from Huckstep, Schmidt said he would consider allowing a fire station in the area.
“The corridor is meant for residential,” agreed Berkshire. “Or maybe some ‘affordable’ business space in that first block.”
“I’d personally be comfortable with office-type buildings,” said Mason. “And why limit the idea to a fire station relocation? Maybe given the cost of renovating the Center for the Arts, it could be out there instead. If the fire hall goes there, we would probably want a bridge over Butte Avenue for emergency access to that side of town.”
Ladoulis said he was open to some commercial lots along the highway but was opposed to any parking along the highway.
Aderhold said the original concept was to gear the commercial toward something like medical offices. “We were thinking less retail and more office space,” he explained.
Huckstep asked that the staff investigate if there were agreements with Mt. Crested Butte and the county prohibiting commercial property in the corridor.
“I just think we are missing a huge opportunity if we go with Jim’s argument,” said Michel. “The town of Crested Butte values walk-ability and if we don’t allow commercial over there, everyone will have to drive to the grocery store. Saying no to commercial doesn’t recognize how people will want to live in the future.”
“The original idea was to have that first block be sort of a cool mixed business hub,” said Lock. “We are totally okay taking out the northern commercial lots and making them residential.”
No high-end enclaves or grid system
The council in general wanted to make sure that the east side of the development didn’t become a high-end “enclave.” It wanted to ensure that local affordable lots were included on both sides of the river. The idea of “micro lots” that came up during the last annexation proposal was revisited with the thought that smaller lots would be more affordable for working people.
“I just don’t want the lots to get too small,” said Schmidt. “They aren’t functional if they can’t accommodate a car or two and all the toys people have up here.”
Berkshire and Mason said there are some smaller lots along Ruth’s Road that work fine.
Under the town code, new development must be comprised of at least 60 percent local housing lots. Twenty-one percent needs to be strictly deed-restricted. The council was open to being flexible with adjusting the percentage of local housing to add more strict deed-restricted housing.
Whether to extend the grid system to the entire development was another issue that split the council. The land on the east side has wetland issues and using a grid system would extend some of the lots into the 100-foot wetland buffer. Engineer Tyler Harpel of SGM said the developers preferred using a more “natural” layout as opposed to the grid. It seemed to fit the lay of the land better, didn’t encroach as much toward wetlands and would require about 5 percent less asphalt.
“The non-grid option struck me as transitioning to the Moon Ridge subdivision,” said Berkshire. “There are places in town that are non-traditional such as Treasury Hill. I’m ambivalent but lean toward the natural suggestion.”
“This is the issue that gives me the most heartburn,” said Matusewicz. “I really don’t want that east side to look like and become a high-end exclusive enclave within town. In fact I’d suggest adding a bridge on 10th Street to give it more access.”
Schmidt pointed out that bridges were very expensive.
“The grid looks a little contrived on that parcel,” said Ladoulis. “I understand the desire to keep it from being a private enclave but we can address that by having affordable lots there. You wouldn’t even know if it was grid or not unless you looked down from the air. Not everything in town has to look exactly the same.”
“I’m pretty adamant about keeping the grid,” said Michel. “It is part of our history and our community. It will help give that area Crested Butte character. The streetscape will have a dramatically different feel if it is not a grid.”
Yerman said it would be very noticeable when looking at town from the Silver Queen chairlift.
“To me it’s not the grid that maintains the fabric of town, it is the people,” said Huckstep. “So I agree we need affordable lots over there.”
“The grid is one of many threads in the fabric of town,” countered Michel.
“We don’t have a number of affordable lots for the east side but we want to maintain the character of town,” promised Aderhold.
Town building and zoning director Bob Gillie advocated for the grid and said given the lot configurations, the town may need zoning to address lots off the grid. “You can utilize a building envelope within the lots to address the wetland buffer,” he suggested.
Lock asked for direction either way since he didn’t want to move forward and then have the rug pulled out.
Citing the easier way to address wetlands buffering, the council expressed a comfort level with not using the grid.
Water and sewer
Another major issue would be the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant and the need for more water rights in town to serve the development. The council wanted legal advice on the water rights issue and information from the staff about asking for other improvements as opposed to more water if there is enough in town already.
“We need more information to make an informed decision on water,” stated Michel.
As for the sewer issue, an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant would cost well over $1 million and the town is on the edge already of being required by the state to move in that direction. The developers are open to help fund some engineering studies for an upgrade if the annexation triggers state action. That has not yet happened.
The town will start the process of conducting a performance evaluation of the wastewater facility in January. After results are compiled, it will be discussed further by the council.
Trails, streetlights and sidewalks
The council wanted to continue the town amenities along Gothic Road. They want streetlights and a sidewalk between Gothic Road and the development.
“It’s a residential development. Why go backwards? We want to encourage people to walk or ride bikes rather than drive,” said Berkshire.
The council liked the trail access to the rec paths and wanted to make sure dogs would be allowed on the new trails, including the river paths.
The council will continue the discussion at its January 5 council meeting. “We appreciate the good, positive feedback and direction,” said Lock. “We will go where you direct us to go. We like the idea of having a timeline and goals and this is a good start.”