Sunday, September 24, 2017
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County commissioners explain the Brush Creek process

Dear editor,

With all the rumors, innuendo, and outright false perceptions being peddled regarding Brush Creek and our Land Use Change process, the Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) would like to take a moment to present some facts about the process. We do not make public comments about ongoing land use proposals since the BoCC makes the final decision on any application that has been considered by the Planning Commission. It is important that every applicant who proposes a Land Use Change, (LUC), through our Land Use Resolution, (LUR), is afforded a level playing field and a fair process. Accordingly, we will not be sharing an assessment or opinion regarding the current application that is being submitted to the County Community Development Department for the Brush Creek Parcel to ensure the applicant gets the same treatment as any other application that goes through the planning process.

In February of 2017, the BoCC determined that developing housing solutions was a priority in our Strategic Plan and directed county staff to take steps towards the development of 200 workforce housing units by 2020 through public/ private partnerships, a challenging goal but one we felt essential in meeting the needs of our struggling workforce. Our goal prompted a number of private sector developers to contact us with ideas to help provide solutions to our workforce housing needs including a local real-estate agent inquiring, for a client, if they could purchase the Brush Creek property. We did not accept the request to sell the property, stating in part, “we must make the opportunity to buy and develop this public property available generally, so we are not able to work exclusively with you without opening up the process,” and decided to develop an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) in a manner consistent with a Memorandum of Agreement, (MOA), between Crested Butte Mountain Resort, the Town of Crested Butte, the Town of Mt. Crested Butte, and Gunnison County, (Parties), to solicit proposals for use of the property to address workforce housing and transit at that location.

We received five responses to the RFQ and the Parties unanimously picked two to send Request for Proposals (RFP) for developing the property. Once the RFP’s were received the Parties again came to unanimous decision on which proposal to accept, (Applicant), based in large part on the fact that their proposal did not require significant public sector funding for completion of the project which, in our opinion, was responsible use of taxpayer money. The applicant was informed that there would need to be a LUC application submitted to the County and this project would have to go through the same rigorous and public process that any other land use change would have to.

It was made clear that there were no expressed or implied guarantees that their proposal would receive approval during this process.

As the owner of the property, Gunnison County, with unanimous approval by the Parties, has agreed to let the applicant, at their own risk, enter the process to acquire a LUC for the project and will be addressed by the Gunnison County Planning Commission soon. This is a comprehensive process that is open to the public and is the appropriate place to make public comments on the proposal. We encourage anyone who is interested in this project to participate in the process so that if there is a recommendation forwarded to the BoCC from the Planning Commission it is the best proposal that it can be.

The applicant has the option but has not asked for an expedited process, which is an incentive afforded any workforce housing application. It does not allow the applicant to “skip” any steps or requirements in the LUR and only means that the Community Development Department will make every effort to place the projects many required meetings on the next available meeting date. It is also important to note that there were no “back room deals”, secretive meetings, or any representations made to anyone who was interested in developing the Brush Creek Property. All negotiations have occurred with unanimous approval of the Parties.

It has been insinuated by some that County staff have acted inappropriately in this process. Let us assure you that no one on the County staff has acted outside of the expressed instructions, acknowledgement, or approval of the Board of County Commissioners collectively when it comes to the Brush Creek property. The County has a very capable Manager, Matthew Birnie, who works for the BoCC and takes direction from us in working towards our stated strategic goals. Since the creation of the Strategic Planning Process in 2008, the County has accomplished a great deal for its constituents and this is due, in no small part, to the high quality team of County employees and their dedication to furthering the stated goals of the BoCC. This is a team that has been, in large part, put together by the leadership skills of Matthew Birnie and his dedication to the best delivery of public services to all the people who call Gunnison County home. It is unfortunate for anyone to insinuate that Matthew would not conduct himself in a professional manner while representing the County and the BoCC, as this is simply not the case.

We are committed to finding solutions to our workforce housing challenges within Gunnison County, we are not “putting all of our eggs in one basket,” and this is certainly not the only thing the County is doing to address this issue. There are other ideas and properties that are being investigated to help provide relief for those who are finding affordable workforce housing difficult to acquire.  We would hope that as this process moves forward that the community is able to have a conversation about it in a fashion that represents who we are in Gunnison County, with respect for one another, with integrity and with honesty.

Phil Chamberland

Jonathan Houck

John Messner

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