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Major rental development at Brush Creek road moves ahead

240 units, a transit center, coffee shop on 17 acres

By Mark Reaman

A plan to build 240 rental units on the 17-acre corner parcel at the intersection of Highway 135 and Brush Creek Road has the initial nod from the four owners of the land: Gunnison County, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

A proposal from Texas company, Gatesco Inc., emerged as the top choice among five proposals submitted to the ownership group. Units would range from 500-square-foot efficiencies to 1,300-square-foot three-bedroom units. Half of the units would be restricted for rental for tenants making less than 140 percent AMI (area median income). One hundred percent AMI for a single person right now is $49,600. For a four-person household, the AMI is $70,800. So at 140 percent, a single person could earn $69,440, while a four-person household could bring in $99,120. The other half of the rentals on the site would be rented at free market rates with no restrictions on cost.

More than 800 people could be housed in the project on a triangle-shaped parcel of land. There would be parkland, a community building with a coffee shop, and a transit center to accommodate bus transportation. About 70 parking spaces for park-and-ride would be on the site. Access to the development would be off of Brush Creek Road or Wright Ranch Road. Some buildings would be constructed as duplexes while others would be as big as 24-plexes.

Gatesco principal Gary Gates has assembled a group of well-known longtime local residents to help with the project, ranging from architect Andrew Hadley, to real estate broker Doug Kroft to Law of the Rockies, Crested Butte Electrical and SGM Engineering. The proposal calls for Gatesco to not just build the project, but to manage the development for many years.

The proposal promises energy efficient units with affordable rents ranging in the restricted units from $413 a month for an efficiency unit for someone making 30 percent of AMI to $2,940 a month for a three-bedroom/two-bath place for a renter making 140 percent AMI. Rent will be capped at 30 percent of a tenant’s income. Passive solar would be utilized.

The proposal states, “If land use approval is received in the spring of 2018, infrastructure and site work can be completed in 2018. Build-out could be completed by the fall of 2019.”

Water and sewer access appear to be the main problems out of the gate. The proposal states that hooking up to the nearby subdivisions, either Skyland or Larkspur, for water is not feasible. So the suggestion is to use one or more wells as the primary water source. The developers currently have no water rights.

As for sewage disposal, the developers have suggested either building an on-sight sewage disposal system or looking at connecting to the town of Crested Butte’s sewer system. Hooking up to the East River Regional Sanitation District treatment plant is not a preferred alternative “due to the significantly higher augmentation requirement created by delivering sewer return flows from the Slate River Basin to the East River Basin.”

At Monday’s Crested Butte Town Council meeting it was made clear that three of the four ownership partners had already given the nod to go with Gatesco as the developer. “The parties are in alignment to select Gatesco,” town manager Dara MacDonald told the council.

The Crested Butte council voted unanimously to head in that direction as well.

MacDonald wrote in a memo to the council, “There will likely be an eventual discussion about the possibility of extending municipal wastewater to the site (most likely just wastewater, but there is a possibility of a request for extension of water as well.)”

An extensive public process to hear feedback and concerns about the plan would have to go through the Gunnison County Planning Commission and the Land Use Resolution.

MacDonald said the prevailing feeling of the owners was that a sale of the property to Gatesco would not generate much money and a development that supplied 120 units of workforce housing would be a significant community benefit.

“There are still a lot of questions,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “Water and sewer are major questions but I have heard from the neighbors in Skyland who voiced legitimate concern about the traffic at the intersection of Highway 135 and Brush Creek Road. It is already very difficult for a bus to make a left-hand turn onto Brush Creek Road. I’m not sure what the state or the county will do to address the increase in traffic there. That’s one thing that scares me.”

“Traffic studies will be required as part of the process,” said MacDonald, “and the developer will be responsible for the mitigation if it is required.”

“There are problems that have to be answered,” said councilman Paul Merck. “There will be tons of issues coming up.”

“It is a big project that will be impactful,” agreed MacDonald. “The public process is there to address the issues.”

“There will be a lot of process ahead of us,” concurred mayor Glenn Michel.

“We spent $5 million in public money and tax credits for 30 units in Anthracite Place and now down the road there could be 240 units that could be built with a loan. What’s so fundamentally different with this compared to Anthracite Place?” asked councilman Chris Ladoulis. “What is the risk that this won’t work?”

“Gatesco has a depth of experience with this type of project,” responded MacDonald. “They have done about ten of these type of HUD projects. Anthracite Place reaches people with the lowest incomes. This project starts with rentals for workforce housing where Anthracite Place (almost) tops out. Also, half of this is not limited by income restrictions so there is more potential for a return on the investment.”

The council directed MacDonald to continue to participate in negotiations with the other landowners and Gatesco to move the proposed development forward.

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