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Author of housing Needs Assessment says Brush Creek proposal is too much

Gatesco attorney fires back

By Mark Reaman

The primary author of the 2016 Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment document thinks there are some major flaws with the Gatesco Brush Creek affordable housing sketch plan proposal that is currently before the Gunnison County Planning Commission. The report by Melanie Rees was commissioned by the town of Crested Butte and her conclusions drew the wrath of Gatesco’s attorney, Kendall Burgemeister of Law of the Rockies, who wrote a scathing rebuttal of her report.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman highlighted key points of Rees’ “Key Metrics Comparison between The Corner at Brush Creek and the 2016 Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment” for the council at the Monday, November 6 council meeting.

Rees’ report to the Town stated, “Overall, the proposed Brush Creek development proposes too many units relative to need and the proposed income targeting is not aligned with the housing needs… As proposed, the project would provide nearly four times the number of rental units needed for the middle-to-upper income households.”

The report was submitted to the town last week and shared with Gatesco. Gatesco attorney Burgemeister responded Monday. “The Rees report, and consequently the staff report, includes numerous erroneous conclusions based on material misrepresentations of certain key facets of the Brush Creek development proposal,” Burgemeister wrote. He said Rees’ conclusion that all rent would be set at 30 percent of gross income was not true; rather, that would be the maximum rent allowed on deed-restricted units.

The Burgemeister response said Rees had made a “fundamental mischaracterization” of the development proposal. He called portions of her analysis “faulty,” “fatally flawed and utterly useless.” He said some of her conclusions were “invalid” and “misguided conjecture lacking any factual basis.” He characterized her analysis as coming from “an imaginary world.”

“Ms. Rees’ analysis so severely misrepresented the actual Brush Creek development proposal that it appears that the Rees report was not intended to provide an objective assessment but rather a biased talking points memo in opposition of the project,” Burgemeister’s conclusion stated.

“A lot of voices were making statements about the Needs Assessment so the town was trying to get an opinion from Melanie as the author of the assessment,” Yerman explained.

The attorney’s rebuttal did not sit well with the Town Council.

“We went to the original author to see if the Brush Creek proposal addressed the ailments identified in the Needs Assessment,” explained Crested Butte mayor Glenn Michel. “We are trying to close an information gap. I think the report is timely. We plan to submit this to the county to help inform both the county and the town.”

“Given the accusations from Law of the Rockies, is Rees a credible authority, a reliable source on this?” councilman Chris Ladoulis asked Yerman.

“It is unfortunate that Gatesco took the stance they did,” said Yerman. “They used the Needs Assessment for data supporting their proposal. Melanie lives and breathes affordable housing and has for many years. She put the Needs Assessment together. She’s a professional. So, yes, I think she is a reliable source.”

“I have full respect for Melanie as a professional,” said Michel. “All the parties in the county were on board to hire her to compile the assessment.”

“I hope the Planning Commission takes into consideration the tone of the [Gatesco] letter in their proceedings,” suggested councilman Jackson Petito.

“I found the letter from Gatesco offensive,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “[Rees] does this sort of work for resort communities all over the West. I’m not sure why Gatesco decided on a personal attack on someone reviewing their work. It was a hostile attack and unfortunate. I hope that doesn’t set the tone of discussion with Gatesco in the future.”

“We want to take the high road,” agreed Michel.

“Melanie is considered the expert in affordable housing issues in mountain communities,” added town attorney Barbara Green. “I would recommend she attend the Planning Commission meeting on November 17 when they are talking about housing if it is within the town budget. I am sure Law of the Rockies will have representation there.”

Council voted unanimously to submit Rees’ report analysis to the Gunnison County Planning Commission.

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