But land is being sold, plan is moving forward
By Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Town Council is formally asking its partners in the Brush Creek property to slow down and not transfer the title of the land to the developer before the plan goes through the county review process. The response has been lukewarm if not downright cold.
The council also would like an appraisal of the property and an opinion on the proposal as it relates to the Needs Assessment Report compiled by Melanie Rees Consulting last November.
After a 90-minute closed-door executive session on Monday, October 2, the council regrouped and stated for the record that the original memorandum of agreement (MOA) was focused on parking and affordable housing. Councilmembers believe the current initiative is a broader use that needs to be discussed between the partners in the MOA and an amendment to the document is likely appropriate before going forward with any transfer of the property.
“We think it would be beneficial to have a larger discussion with our partners over the MOA,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “We want to insist upon meeting with them to have a reasonable discussion about an amendment to the MOA before a sales agreement is executed.”
“It’s very disappointing the county is pushing this process aggressively at this speed, particularly before any public comment meeting and especially when they are aware the only such meeting is scheduled for Thursday [October 5],” Ladoulis said in regard to a potential contract offering between the county and Gatesco that he said could occur this week. “We’ve expressed our reservations about entering into a sales agreement and conveying title before [a county Land Use Resolution] process begins. So we all agree we have a desire to renew our objection to the county proceeding with a sales agreement that would result in the conveyance of the title of this parcel before the LUR process begins because we don’t yet have a full understanding of the costs and the benefits of what this proposed project might entail.
“In particular, a sales agreement likely brings with it a sales price and we don’t even have an appraisal so we don’t know what value we would be conveying to the proponent and what value and cost this project entails as a hard dollar amount. I think it would be short-sighted and not fulfill our obligation to our constituents to jump into a sales agreement until we have a better idea of what the costs and benefits are. We also all agree we want to engage the public,” he continued.
Ladoulis said the county set an October 2 deadline for comments on a draft sales contract by the MOA partners. “Theoretically, an agreement could be signed and executed before Thursday,” said Ladoulis.
“I agree it needs to slow down and we need an appraisal,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “A land transfer shouldn’t happen until the plan is approved in the LUR. Transparency is a huge concern. I think there is a problem with the contract possibly being signed without the public seeing it and knowing exactly what the contract is.”
Schmidt also said the council wanted to hire the Needs Assessment report author, Melanie Rees, to provide a short analysis of the Gatesco proposal in regard to the Needs Assessment Survey report. “Going back to the author makes sense,” he said.
“We want to make sure that the recommendations and concerns in the Needs Assessment report are being addressed with this proposed project,” added mayor Glenn Michel.
Schmidt also said the council wanted to make clear that “at this time the council has no interest in providing water or sewer to the project.”
Councilman Jackson Petito said he understood why the developer would want title to the property before land use approval but the council as a whole was uncomfortable with such a transfer. “If the developer doesn’t think the project works without that possibility he doesn’t have to sign the contract,” Petito said.
Councilmen Paul Merck and Roland Mason said they agreed with the comments.
“Closing on the contract before going through the county LUR review process is inappropriate,” agreed councilwoman Laura Mitchell, “and we are uncomfortable providing water and sewer, given the density of the project.”
Michel wanted to make sure the staff kept a close eye on the county process and provided comments about impacts to the town from the project to the county at every opportunity.
“At some point we will probably need to hire consultants to analyze the impacts of this project on the town,” the mayor added. “That won’t happen before they want the initial comments on October 10.”
Friends of Brush Creek steering committee member Robert McCarter thanked the council for trying to hit the pause button. “I think it is important for the town of Crested Butte and the town of Mt. Crested Butte to cooperate and just take the time to discuss it,” he said. “If both towns do that, the county, I think would pause the process and not sell the land. It seems obvious that the developer wants title so he can start the HUD loan process and if that happens that will make the whole thing a done deal.”
On Tuesday, Gunnison county manager Matthew Birnie said that the Crested Butte town attorney and town manager, provided input on the draft contract. He said county attorney David Baumgarten has incorporated their comments into the draft. Birnie said he would meet with Baumgarten on Wednesday and if the draft agreement was ready it would be sent to Gatesco’s attorney.
Meanwhile, the Mt. Crested Butte town council went into an executive session after its regular Oct. 3 meeting to discuss the Brush Creek project and Gatesco proposal. The session lasted about two hours and culminated in the council asking staff to draft a letter to be sent to the county planning department highlighting some points of concern over the project.
“First we want to express that the council supports the dire need for work force housing as outlined in the needs assessment report from 2016,” said Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick of the council’s stance.
Points of concern, however, included: density, traffic, changes to topography, visual impact, and concerns of neighbors.
“We’re happy with, and respectful of, the LUR moving forward,” said Fitzpatrick. “The preselling (of the land to Gatesco) has already been decided and the contract is being written.”