Saturday, August 19, 2017
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Surprises…and not so surprises

Part of my job is to raise an eyebrow at things. I try not to get surprised by much and I try to question everything before forming a solid opinion. Here are some surprises (and not so surprises) from the week. More solid opinions to follow…

Housing development and a stoplight?

With a development proposal that would drop 240 new rental units and accommodate 816 people at build-out as early as the fall of 2019, it would not be a surprise that I could perhaps win a bet as a gambling man that the upper valley’s first stop light would not be located at Sixth and Elk in Crested Butte but rather at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135. Adding 800 new people to the road that accesses Skyland, Larkspur, Buckhorn, Rivergreen (my house), etc., has the potential to tip the scale in that direction despite the graphics and description in the proposal that people renting the apartments in the project will ride bikes or buses instead of drive cars. They’ll do both.

It’s not a surprise that the local politicians like “The Corner at Brush Creek” proposal at first glance. It looks so easy. It will help put a dent in a much talked about problem. It brings in essentially 120 deed-restricted rentals to address affordable housing in the upper valley. It is a slick proposal on a piece of land that can be given away without much pocketbook pain. The developer was genius in his selection of local faces to be on the development team. It is a public-private partnership with a private business that certainly looks to know what it is doing in this realm.

There are some major issues to work out both practically (water, sewer and traffic) and philosophically (allowing major density in the corridor instead of in current population centers, giving away land for private profit, the possible extension of Crested Butte town services way outside the town boundary).

That many units being built that quickly has a bit of the feeling of building a church for Easter. Sounds great in July but a bit of a glut in May or October. Free-market renters could rent just for the summer or winter.

Personally, I am surprised none of the units are for sale. I would hope there could be some units that locals could purchase and not just rent. I think buying a home is a part of the ladder that young families aspire to climb and gives them even more of a solid tie to the community. Putting some for-sale property as part of the plan would be a good idea.

While the developers want a relatively quick approval process, my guess is they shouldn’t be surprised if they get an “interesting” process as well. I have learned one thing watching the public process around here for many years and that is while sometime contentious, it usually results in a better project in the end for everyone.

Politics

It was a bit of surprise that Crested Butte mayor Glenn Michel announced Monday he would not be seeking a second term as mayor in the upcoming November election. The election process begins in a few weeks with petition packets being distributed and forms having to be filed. Glenn jumped way out in front of the process and made it clear he won’t be a candidate. For me, he’s done a pretty good, sometimes surprisingly good job as mayor and he’ll be missed running those meetings.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that two current councilmen have expressed the desire to sit in Glenn’s seat. Councilman Paul Merck has made it known for months that he has been eyeing the job and plans to run for mayor. Former mayor and longtime councilman Jim Schmidt has also said he wants to return to the middle seat. In fact, Schmidt sent a letter to the paper this week declaring his intent to seek the mayor’s office. I won’t be surprised if another face emerges to try to be the town’s top elected official.

Trash

I was surprised and disappointed when parks and recreation director Janna Hansen reported to the council that town crews said the parks in Crested Butte were absolutely trashed over the weekend. We’ve been hearing about it in the backcountry for a few summers, but the parks? Really? Janna said her crews had never before seen so much trash and food littering the town’s parks and pavilions.

No one is surprised that when the number of visitors goes up there are some negative ramifications. Losing the park and pavilion behind the Center for the Arts pushed people to more crowded venues but I don’t understand the absence of what should be common courtesy and respect to clean up after one’s self.

Tax issue

It’s not much of a surprise that the most recent polling by the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority as reported by councilman Jim Schmidt shows there is not much of a hefty appetite for a property tax increase to fund affordable housing projects. Property taxes hit locals and especially businesses pretty hard and even after hearing some selling points, the potential approval number topped out at the 50 percent mark. I would be surprised if it did that well in November, especially with the latest high-profile affordable housing proposal for Brush Creek that would be primarily privately operated. There are alternatives, apparently…

Trust for Public Land

And finally, I was surprised a few decades ago when the Trust for Public Land group helped a much smaller community purchase the old Eccher Ranch at the entrance to Crested Butte. That ranch has provided guaranteed open space, a community school and protection of valuable wetlands. The TPL played a big part in that transaction and they have returned to the upper valley many times since to help with other open space deals. Most recently they are heavily involved in the Trampe Ranch conservation easements.

The national Board of Directors of the TPL is holding its annual board meeting in the valley this coming week. So here is a shout out of thanks for helping this growing community achieve goals that reflect its values. The TPL has been a great partner with not just Crested Butte but the entire county. It should come as no surprise that the people who live here are grateful for your assistance. Thank you.

—Mark Reaman

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