Potential solutions but plan threatens “character and capacity of community”
By Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Town Council crafted a response letter Monday to the development team that is proposing the 240-unit affordable housing project at Brush Creek. While generally positive in tone, the letter listed several concerns and suggestions with the proposal.
The correspondence comes after a face-to-face work session with the Gatesco, Inc. development team and the Crested Butte Town Council last month. The letter was addressed to Gary Gates and states, “We strongly believe that by working together and making constructive modifications to the Sketch Plan, we can create an economically and socially viable neighborhood for local working families and individuals that fully embodies our shared community values and respects our rural, mountain environment.”
The concerns mentioned in the correspondence include issues with density, design, size, and scale; the precedence of leapfrogging utilities in the valley; the lack of “for-sale” units in the project; the shortage of units dedicated to the lowest income earners below the 80 percent and 50 percent AMI (Average Median Income) levels; the idea of “master leases” for large employers on the lower income units; the lack of adequate parking; compatibility with the existing neighborhood; and the need for a fiscal and facilities impact analysis.
Specifically, the council noted that while the property is appropriate for affordable housing and parking, the proposed density is dramatically higher than any projects located within the surrounding neighborhoods along Brush Creek Road.
“The project is seven times the density of the closest comparable project at Stallion Park,” the letter states. “The density of over 400 bedrooms on 14 acres combined with the total of nine large buildings (15,000 to 32,000 sq. ft.) of this size threatens the character and capacity of the community which you hope to benefit. The charm of Crested Butte has been maintained through years of careful consideration and balancing of sometimes conflicting community goals.”
The council suggested a maximum building size of 11,500 square feet; proposed including some duplex and four-plex units that could be sold; suggested the need to provide two parking spaces per unit at a minimum; said there was a desire for more guest and visitor parking spaces; stated a storage area for buses would be appropriate; asked for more units dedicated to workers making less than 80 percent and 50 percent AMI; and requested a fiscal and facilities impact analysis be done before the plan moves to the preliminary planning phase of the county process.
The council pointed out that under the Gunnison County Land Use regulations, a plan “in the sketch plan process is expected to evolve and respond to collaborative feedback” so the council hopes the developers will take to heart the concerns and suggestions from the town.
“We trust that your team is listening to your neighbors and townspeople and hearing that the current Corner at Brush Creek apartment project is too dense, too urban, too uncertain in terms of water/sewer service, too costly for working residents and too short-sighted in being able to accommodate future transit and intercept parking needs,” the letter states.
During council discussion Monday, councilman Chris Haver led the council through the letter detailing the concerns. Councilman Will Dujardin said it was important to highlight the need for more units dedicated to lower-wage earners. He also wanted to emphasize the need for some ownership opportunities.
Councilman Paul Merck said the developer was planning a “one-meter” complex and the ownership element could throw a monkey wrench into that idea. Town community development director Michael Yerman said most utility companies expected separate metering for individual buildings, so carving out duplex and four-plex buildings could work.
Councilwoman Laura Mitchell suggested that additional guest and visitor parking was important.
The letter requests that the development team reconsider the design of the project “in the face of community concerns that the impacts of this project outweigh the benefits offered by your proposal.”
The council voted 6-0 to approve the letter and send it to Gates.
“The Crested Butte Town Council and staff are open and willing to work with you, your team and Gunnison County in creating a place for locals to call home at Brush Creek that fits with the character and authenticity of Crested Butte,” the letter concluded.