6-0 vote now goes to Town Council
By Mark Reaman
While the ultimate decision about rezoning a parcel of land along Sixth Street rests with the Crested Butte Town Council, the recommendation the council asked for from the BOZAR (Board of Zoning and Architectural Review) was to deny the rezoning request. BOZAR voted 6-0 on March 24 to recommend keeping the four blocks, essentially between Gothic Field and the north end of town on the northwest side of town, zoned as B-2 instead of T (Tourist).
Developers of the Sixth Street Station/Crested Butte Hotel have asked for the zoning change that would allow for more building mass. They could build a 63,000-square-foot hotel on the property if it were zoned T, but were limited to about 43,000 square feet of building in the B-2 zone. The current approval for the developers allows for a hotel with a mix of commercial and retail spaces. That plan also has underground parking, which has become prohibitively expensive.
Crested Butte building and zoning director Bob Gillie gave some history of the proposal to start the meeting and emphasized that the meeting was meant to focus on the rezoning request and not design concepts.
Architect Gary Hartman then made a 30-minute presentation to about 30 people in the audience explaining the potential benefits that would come from the Crested Butte Hotel. He said again the goal was to develop a four-star quality hotel that brings public benefits to Crested Butte. It would contain 32 condominiums that could be split into 59 suites, or 88 “keys,” or individual rooms. The hotel and annex buildings would each be about 30,000 square feet and sit on the two middle blocks split by Teocalli Avenue. The blocks on the north and south of the buildings would be parking lots.
“Does the town want a hotel property in town?” he asked. “If yes, then where? We believe this property is the highest and best use for a hotel in town. Large project opportunities are fairly limited in town.”
Because the town code says parking is based on the number of “keys” in a hotel property, 99 spaces are required. Hartman said the room configurations would mean most stays would be spent in one of the 59 suites, and while each piece of the suite could be rented separately, making for the potential of 88 rooms, that was not likely very often.
Hartman said if the town would reconsider the parking requirements, the parking lots could be configured to have significant green space.
Gillie and BOZAR chair Liz Sawyer asked Hartman to rein in the proposed design discussion and stick to the rezoning question.
“I’m trying to express the community benefits the project can give back,” Hartman said, arguing that it would take a rezoning to make the project, and thus the benefits, happen.
After his presentation, Sawyer told members of the public at the meeting that there would not be public comment. She said whatever recommendation was made would go to the Town Council and that would be done in a public meeting where members of the public would have ample opportunity to comment on the proposal.
Gillie told the board that Hartman’s presentation was specific to his proposal. “I would caution the board to concentrate on the zoning and not look at the architectural proposals. Some of what was presented may or may not happen,” he said.
“I hear Gary’s dreams with this proposal and it is exciting for our town,” said Sawyer. “In years past and according to Gary’s studies, there is a desire for a hotel. What is hard for me going down this path is that we’ve approved a similar hotel on that B-2 site. To do this rezoning for the larger buildings could be a big change in the neighborhoods and that speaks to me.”
“One thing that hit me during the presentation was the ability to hide some of the parking lot,” said BOZAR member Roxana Alvarez. “There are a lot of good elements in the design. But what if something happens and say, the zoning gets changed and then the funding falls through. What if another developer comes in and the design is in someone else’s hands? That is an area of discomfort for me. We could lose control of the zoning corridor. We don’t know what the future will bring.”
“Unfortunately in our town there’s become a dichotomy where long-term rentals are being eliminated for short-term rentals. Short-term, hotel-type beds in town don’t seem to be an issue right now,” added BOZAR member Austin Ross. “I’m not sure the town’s area of greatest need is more hotel rooms. The greatest need these days is probably workforce housing.
“Plus this is a really, really big rezoning,” Ross continued. “It’s not a half a block. It is a big chunk of our town. If we start rezoning large swaths of town, it compromises the overall land use plan of town.”
BOZAR member David Russell said he had objectively reviewed the 16 points dealing with the purpose and intent for rezoning property in the municipal code and found the request satisfied four points and did not satisfy eight. The other points he felt were not applicable.
Sawyer said she didn’t think changing the parcel to a T zone was compatible with the residential neighborhood planned for the nearby area. “For me a big point is that we did see a lovely hotel with lovely amenities and parks on that property while it is zoned B-2,” said Sawyer. “You did a nice job with it and we approved it. I see B-2 as being intended to be sensitive to the neighborhood that’s coming. Everything you listed on the conclusion to your presentation could still happen in the B-2 zone. But it has to go with the zoning the town has designated for the street instead of having 60,000 square feet in building.”
“In the category of needing a compelling reason for how it could benefit the town, I think some could see the tax benefits,” said BOZAR member John Meyer. “But this town still has a ‘money isn’t everything’ attitude. So the increase in tax revenue is not a compelling reason for me.”
“And I think B-2 offers more diversity that we will want in the future,” said Ross. “We lose some of that in T.”
“I wasn’t on BOZAR with the first approval but if you pulled it off the first time I think you can pull it off again,” Alvarez told Hartman. “You are a talented architect. We just can’t count on that particular design in the future. It’s done well but it could change.”
Hartman said he thought some of the BOZAR comments were very appropriate. “But we were under the impression we could do this under a conditional approval with the zoning,” he said. “Now the town attorney is saying we can’t do that. I also think in my personal opinion that B-2 is zoning for a bygone era. There is no need to encourage ‘drive-to’ businesses. There is opportunity under different zoning in that area for developers to bring different ideas addressing different needs. Plus a good solid hotel project in town could reduce the number of short-term home rentals in town.”
Sawyer reiterated that the town has already approved a Hartman hotel on that site “so we know we can get a hotel on B-2 zoning. The town can get a beautiful boutique hotel. As Roxana said, you are a great architect and we are excited to work with you.”
With that, the BOZAR approved a motion 6-0 to recommend denying the request for the rezoning. That recommendation will go to the Town Council for the public hearing of the application to rezone the parcels. The meeting date is yet to be determined.