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Slate River annexation to move into detailed review phase

Public hearings throughout process but agreements in place

By Mark Reaman

The proposed Cypress Foothills Slate River annexation process that will bring about 14 acres of land into the town of Crested Butte is starting to gear up. On Monday, January 22 the Town Council approved the Slate River Annexation Concept Review 6-1, with councilman Jackson Petito voting against it. That move basically begins the detailed review process, which starts with a formal annexation petition to be filed by the developers of the project located just north of town.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman gave the Town Council a review of the process at the January 22 meeting and went over the basics of the pre-annexation agreements that will guide the annexation. The town will annex approximately 14 acres of the 44-acre development. Those agreements took more than a year to negotiate and are essentially binding contracts that put limitations on what can and cannot be done with the annexation.

As part of the deal, the town is providing water and sewer service to 23 single-family homes and up to 23 accessory dwellings, even though the houses will be on county property. In exchange, the town is getting four lots from the developer to be used for public benefit, including potential affordable housing projects, park space, snow storage, open space, river access, and possible sites for a school facility and/or safety services building.

The town will start conversations with other governmental entities in February to gauge interest in using the property for potential facilities. As part of the deal, the town has agreed to pay $350,000 toward the cleanup of the old landfill on one of the parcels to be given to the town.

Yerman said there would be several opportunities for the public to officially comment on the process. A sketch plan work session will be held with the BOZAR (Board of Zoning and Architectural Review) on February 27. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 27.

Because the council formally approved the “high level” concept review, the developers can now file a formal petition to begin the detailed review process. The plans will go through BOZAR, the town Planning Commission (the council wearing different procedural hats) and the Town Council. According to a memo to the council by Yerman, “The public would have an opportunity to comment throughout the process via public hearings.”

Crested Butte resident Jim Starr questioned the validity of the public comment process, given the agreements already in place. “How much flexibility does the town have?” he asked. “For example, can the town get two of the six residential lots on the west side of the property to be deed-restricted?”

“There is not much flexibility, to be honest,” said Yerman. “The pre-annexation agreement is a binding contract.”

“So the public comment process is a charade,” Starr said. “There is no flexibility.”

Yerman said while much of the “heavy lifting” had been negotiated, there were still many details to be worked out between the developers and the town. He noted that the town was receiving many public benefits from the agreement.

The town has budgeted $25,000 to fund the annexation process this year. Councilwoman Laura Mitchell, who sits on the Mountain Express board, asked Cypress vice president Cameron Aderhold to have better communication with the developer’s plan to help build a bus barn on the town property adjacent to the development. Aderhold said he would do that and plans for the bus barn are pretty far along.

The council voted to move to the next phase of the annexation process. Petito voted against that move, as he stated he would during the last election when he vocally objected to the proposal.

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