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Alternative plan to Brush Creek proposal fails to see light of day

County says proposal submitted too late to be considered

By Aimee Eaton

Back in October, an alternative plan to the Gatesco proposal for the development at Brush Creek was submitted to the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority.

This plan gave an overview for the Enclave at Brush Creek, a project slated to be between 80 and 90 residential units with a mix of rentals and for sale units. It was presented by a subgroup of The Friends of Brush Creek, an organization formed in direct opposition to the Gatesco proposal, which calls for a high-density, rental-only subdivision at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135.

Developers of the Enclave plan said their proposal was more in line with the 2016 Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment than the Gatesco proposal, and even though the plan was submitted more than six months after the county issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the development and construction of the Brush Creek Property, Enclave developers expected their plan to be considered by the housing authority and the county.

That has not happened.

In a letter submitted last week to the Crested Butte News by Friends of Brush Creek steering committee members Lawrence Brannian and Robert McCarter, it was alleged that Gunnison County Commissioners had “directed the executive director of GVRHA not to spend one second analyzing or working on the Alternative Proposal.”

Brannian and McCarter then went on to write, “The Gatesco Proposal fails [to] satisfy our values and preserve our unique quality of life for present and future generations to enjoy. The Alternative Proposal satisfies the Mission Statement in spades. A fair hearing and analysis for the Alternative Proposal is needed now and appropriate before any further action is taken on the Gatesco Proposal.”

Gunnison County commissioner John Messner called the allegations from the letter writers “Hogwash.”

“First, we never demanded anything regarding the plan, and second, the housing authority does not take direction from the county commissioners. It is an independent agency and the only group to which the executive director is beholden is her board, and that’s it,” Messner said.

Messner continued, saying he had not seen the alternative plan, but that it was not because he wasn’t interested in the proposal. Rather, because the plan was submitted several months after the county’s formal call for proposals, it could not legally be considered.

“The very basis of this is that they have gone outside the standard government procedure,” said Messner. “There was a full standard public process to select a proposal with a clear window of dates in which proposals had to be submitted. Once that period was over we could not consider additional proposals. Whether a proposal may be good or may not be good is not the issue.”

Jennifer Kermode, the executive director of the GVRHA, said she did receive a plan from the Friends of Brush Creek, however, “the GVRHA Board was not then and is not now in any position to entertain a proposal to develop land that we have no legal or equitable ownership interest in.”

“It would have been a great idea for the FofBC to have submitted the plan to the County during the RFP process as that was a public process,” Kermode continued. “I know they’re very concerned about solving the affordable housing issues in the Valley, and it’s possible that their proposal would work very well on other parcels owned by other jurisdictions.”

Kermode added that no one, at any time, had ordered her to “not waste time” looking at it.

Brannian countered that the alternative proposal should still be considered, and the creation of the proposal occurred not because anyone in Friends of Brush Creek was looking to get into the development game, but rather because the group saw the necessity of offering the Gunnison Valley an alternative to the Gatesco plan that would protect the integrity of the area.

“None of us had any idea that this process was moving forward until we arrived in Crested Butte in late May and early June 2017,” said Brannian. “Except for one, none of us are developers, although a number of us have worked in or around the real estate business and apartment and other improved property development for most of our careers and, while a few were friends, most of us did not, in June 2017, have the relationships with each other that have developed during this process. Hence we were late to the process, which appears to have commenced in mid-to-late 2016.

“The ideas for the alternative proposal evolved during the summer and time was taken to make sure that the proposed alternative would work and could be done,” he continued. “Of course once submitted to the county [Jennifer Kermode], the county commissioners and/or Mathew Birnie instructed Jennifer not to even look at the proposal until it was determined whether or not the Gates deal was to move forward and be approved.”

Again, commissioner Messner said it was not in the county’s purview to tell Kermode what to consider; however, because the plan was late to the process the county itself would not evaluate the proposal.

“This is a legal process,” he reiterated. “Had it come in during the window it would have been considered.”

Messner said that if for some reason the Gatesco proposal fails to develop into an actual construction project, the county would likely work with its partners in the Memorandum of Understanding to reevaluate the situation with the property. From there they would determine their next steps, and could potentially look at a new round of proposals.

“We would cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

Brannian countered that the county could reverse its decision to go with the Gatesco proposal, but in his opinion that turn of events would be unlikely.

“If they gave a fair review to the alternative plan, since it responds to the [Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment] in spades, they would have to go back to square one,” he said. “Reversing one’s decision when made on ego is almost impossible. Obviously if there are other agenda items, there is no way that they can or will do the right thing. Hence they appear to have decided not to look at any alternatives to the Gates proposal since it is a done deal.”

A letter detailing the alternative plan can be viewed on the Friends of Brush Creek website.

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