Cemetery access, river access, public participation access
By Mark Reaman
Several topics of discussion between the Crested Butte Town Council and developers of the Slate River subdivision north of town were addressed Tuesday, August 8 and some were a bit prickly. In the end, the two parties are continuing the partnership toward annexation of approximately 14 acres of the 44-acre development, while the town will provide water and sewer to the subdivision, including to homesites that lie outside town boundaries.
The subdivision, being developed by Cypress Equities, has received county approval for 23 homesites on the east side of the Slate River. Work has started on the site with the cutting in of roads and beginning the clean-up of part of the old landfill that was located there. Councilman Jim Schmidt raised the first major glitch in this phase of the partnership.
“This whole thing is based on a matter of trust and it is getting off on the wrong foot,” he told Cypress vice president Cameron Aderhold. “I heard today that your guys were accessing the site through the cemetery. I couldn’t believe it and asked the town staff to look into it. They said it was true. That is outrageous. It is a cemetery, not a thoroughfare. I’m sure if people with family buried out there knew about it they would be outraged. I know it is not an easy area to get to but that is not our problem. As a member of the cemetery committee, this made me angry.”
“I came into town today and went right to the site,” said Aderhold. “We apologize for doing that. We won’t be using that anymore. We have made alternate arrangements.”
Boater and river access
The public boater easement and river access issue in the subdivision was also discussed. Under the agreement with the town, an area north of the bridge crossing the Slate River will be made available for the public to launch boats and paddleboards. There will also be a small area available for fishing. The boat launch and fishing area was originally planned for the south side of the bridge but it was determined that was too close to the town’s wastewater plant discharge into the Slate River. (Insert joke about catching brown trout here). The developers are allowing people to wade into the middle of the river at that point through an easement with the town.
“We want to make sure the town maintains that area like it does other parks in the town,” Aderhold said of the property that will be owned by the subdivision’s property owner’s association. “We are allowing some public fishing on the west side of the river but want to maintain private fishing on the east side.”
“We want to work with the town to set up the river access in a legal manner,” explained Cypress attorney Marcus Lock. “We are worried about someone on a paddleboard coming down the Slate and pulling over for a picnic on the east side of the bank. That would be trespassing.”
Lock explained that not only is it not legal under Colorado law for boaters and river users to touch the river bank and bottom; just using the surface of the river is technically trespassing. This brought objection from Town Council and staff but the town’s water lawyer, Scott Miller, was at the meeting for other issues and he confirmed Lock’s analysis. “Marcus is stating that correctly,” he said. “That is often mistaken.”
Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said the access being allowed to the middle of the river was a plus for the public. “As for fishing at that site in the Slate, it is not very good. It is not a high-quality spot for fishing. Families might use it with young kids.”
“We would use common sense and education to deal with people who trespass on the river,” Aderhold assured the council. “We won’t be calling the sheriff every time someone steps on the riverbank.”
Councilwoman and boater Laura Mitchell agreed that was appropriate. “We need to keep awareness and education going,” she said.
Bus barn expansion
Yerman said the town, the developers, and Mountain Express were working to build covered bus parking on the town’s public works yard that abuts the development. The developers are helping fund construction of the building since it will make the area look nicer. Yerman said having a barn to house the transit agency’s bus fleet is a plus for Mountain Express and more efficiently utilizes space at the public works yard. It would help alleviate some snow storage concerns.
But it also maxes out the space in that area, so Yerman again emphasized there is no more room for anything at that location. The new bus barn is estimated to cost $930,000 and Mountain Express will be on the hook for $475,000. They have saved $450,000 for such a project but expect sales tax revenues to help make up the difference. The town also plans to apply to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) for a grant to help pay for it. Cypress will contribute $135,000 to assist with the foundation and design of the new structure. The structure will also to have to pass the BOZAR (Board of Zoning and Architectural review) process.
Development improvement agreement and public
The council passed a resolution approving a development improvements agreement with the development. “This protects the town more than the developer,” explained Yerman. “It covers the costs for the roads, water and sewer.”
Mayor Glenn Michel explained that much of the upcoming work is a done deal between the town and developers. The town has agreed for the developers to build and pay for the Eighth Street extension, for example.
“We have these conversations that stretch on for more than a year but it is when the tractors roll up that people in the community really notice and get freaked out,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “People forget the pros and cons of the different issues that have been discussed at length.”
Yerman said it is important for citizens to understand that the public process has played out for many months. “The council has discussed it many times and taken public comment at four or five meetings. The county review process held several meetings about the east side of the development proposal at this end of the valley in this room. The county holds jurisdictional authority on the public process to discuss the east side of the development,” he said.
“It is not helpful for us to be saying that that ship has sailed,” said Ladoulis.
Crested Butte resident Jim Starr has come to the council several times urging them to slow the process down and take more public comment. He did so again at the August 8 meeting.
“When will there be a public hearing on the Cypress annexation?” he asked. “The developers are running ads selling lots and showing the proximity to town and there still has not been a public hearing for town.”
While a comprehensive pre-annexation agreement has been reached and signed between the town and developers, Cypress has not yet submitted a petition to be annexed. That will occur after the concept review submission, which should occur in September.
“This will totally change the community and still there has been no public process. You need to slow this down,” said Starr. “The public needs a chance to weigh in. This is not understandable to me. Don’t pass anything else until the public has a chance to weigh in. Given the site of the project, get the public involved and see what they think.”
Yerman said while there wasn’t an official public hearing on the agreements, the council took public comment as talks with Cypress proceeded.
“We have pretty solid borders with the agreements we have worked out between the town and developers,” said councilman Roland Mason.
Ladoulis pointed out that nothing happening now on the development site is on town property, with the exception of the Eighth Street extension.
“We have maintained due process,” concluded Michel. “But perhaps it would be good to hold a work session with an update and reassure the public this has been a thoughtful process. We want the public to come along with us on this project.”
“We will cooperate in whatever form you like,” said Lock, who reminded the council he publicly went over all the developer extractions and public benefits that are part of the project.
The council will consider such a work session in September. The council unanimously passed the development improvements agreement.