Balancing the needs of business and community
By Alissa Johnson
More than 30 people filled Sunset Hall in Crested Butte South last week in the first of several opportunities to weigh in on the future of the commercial area.
The property owners association (POA) has begun the process of reviewing the Commercial Area Master Plan (CAMP) with the idea of updating it to reflect current desires for that part of the community.
Dom Eymere, manager of the POA, explained that the Special Area Regulations were adopted in 2008. “This is an attempt to amend those, like all good governing documents need to be amended from time to time,” he said.
The Crested Butte South POA board initiated the review after creating a new strategic plan for Crested Butte South. One of the priorities outlined was to review and amend the CAMP.
Eymere explained to the Crested Butte News that the goal is to take the existing plan up a notch in order to attract qualified development and have a unified vision for the area that supports businesses but maintains a community feel.
“We’ve had pressure for more industrial uses over the last several years as Riverland gets built out,” Eymere said. The idea is to determine what types of businesses and what amount of commercial development make sense, while still having what Eymere called “public dedication,” areas where people can and want to gather, for instance for a walk or to enjoy a cup of coffee.
“We don’t want to not have a town center. We don’t want just a commercial district,” Eymere continued. He also pointed out that Crested Butte South has 421,000 square feet dedicated to commercial development. By comparison, Crested Butte has 391,000 square feet.
Without the same kind of tourist economy, Eymere says, Crested Butte South’s commercial district is not going to fill out—not even over the next 30 to 50 years. As a result, the POA is considering whether more residential or mixed commercial and residential developments ought to be part of the mix, particularly given the shortage of housing.
But Eymere emphasized that, contrary to rumors going around, the goal is not to replace the commercial district with housing.
To facilitate the process, an advisory committee comprised of several local community members is helping to conduct stakeholder meetings, community meetings and a community survey to gather ideas and feedback.
That information will then be used to develop vision statements for the area, revisit the objectives of the CAMP, and come up with possible designs for the commercial area. According to the charter for the advisory committee, the goal is to “have the necessary tools and policies to make good decisions and to guide the development process so that our commercial area and town center is in character with the community.”
At last week’s meeting, consultant Chris Hawkins emphasized that Crested Butte South is in a unique situation. As the founder of Alpine Planning, Hawkins has more than 20 years of experience with Colorado governments and planning processes, and has been hired to help facilitate the process.
“The current Special Area Regulations are detailed land use regulations for the commercial area adopted by Gunnison County and administered and implemented locally by the Design Review Committee and the POA. So that’s a really unique situation where a county adopts regulations and hands it off to a local entity to enforce. You should be pretty glad that’s there because you have local control,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also noted that through stakeholder meetings, themes were beginning to emerge—topics that the committee wants to address through the amendment process. They included but were not limited to architectural design, infrastructure, and land use. Maintaining a sustainable community also made the list, as did transportation, encompassing everything from walking to driving.
“I imagine a few more will emerge tonight,” Hawkins said, inviting the audience to identify current issues in the commercial area and opportunities for future development.
The discussion ran the gamut from clarifying the current lay of the land to ideas for the future. Deidre Witherell saw “a challenge and also an opportunity on being automobile-centric versus pedestrian-centric. I see an opportunity going forward for sustainable development to be more pedestrian- and bicycle-centric in the commercial area rather than have cars whizzing through.”
Laura Guccione wanted to know if there was room for a community center or a swimming pool. Hawkins saw some challenges with that idea.
“[The existing] plan already has a large amount of land dedications required by the land owner. You have streets, you have sidewalks, you have a park, you have amenities…” Hawkins responded. That doesn’t leave much room for a community center. He saw more opportunity for such a facility on the land near Sunset Hall.
Similarly, Bill Oliver wanted to know if there had been discussion about including a school. Hawkins again emphasized that such a building would be more appropriate in a different location, given the private investment in play in the commercial area.
Other residents raised concerns about things such as noise and light pollution, and pointed out that the biggest challenge for the commercial area is finding businesses that are sustainable over the long term.
There also seemed to be some differing visions for the area. Some residents referenced a new riverside development in Buena Vista that mixes commercial and residential, and is pedestrian-friendly. That area’s commercial businesses tend to be made up of shops and restaurants.
By contrast, other Crested Butte South residents wanted to see fewer restrictions on the types of businesses that are allowed in the commercial area, allowing for more light industrial and even businesses such as auto shops.
A resident who identified herself as Renee said, “The biggest challenge I see is the amount of extra regulations and not being encouraged to build and produce.” She added that no one wants to start businesses in Crested Butte South because residents are always complaining, whether about noise or the sight of shipping containers. She wanted to see more flexibility in the regulations and among community members.
Another resident, new to Crested Butte South, echoed that sentiment later in the meeting, pointing out that increased regulations increase the cost of building, which makes rent go up as well.
Kate Haverkampf, manager of Tassinong Farms, expressed concern over the cost of building. “There are a lot of people with good ideas that don’t have a place to put their business. If we’re waiting for people to come in and build one-off, we’re asking a lot,” she said.
Hawkins explained that the plan is intended to set guidelines for future development. “We’re creating a plan for the community first and foremost, and we’re doing that hopefully with all the property owners at the table and the community,” Hawkins said. “This is a plan that’s going to be implemented over time.”
In bringing current property owners to the table as part of this process, Hawkins believed that some of them are interested in developing. The objective of an updated master plan is to give clear guidelines for that development.
More information about the review process is available at cbsouth.net. Under the “Commercial, Planning & Special” area tab on the left-hand side, residents can find the strategic plan, the charter for the CAMP, and other related documents, including the minutes from meetings.
Eymere confirmed that there will be several more opportunities to weigh on the discussion, including public meetings and a survey that will be sent out in April. “We have a duty to share with the community and talk about it up front, so the high-level view, looking at things as they are now and what opportunities are there,” Eymere said.