Looking to re-vision the 600 acres on the eastern edge of Gunnison
By Kristy Acuff
The owner of a 600-acre parcel known as Gunnison Rising, located on the eastern edge of the city of Gunnison, asked the county to consider funding $8,000 to help him update the overall development plan for the area. Owner Dick Bratton approached the county commissioners with his request but received lukewarm support.
Commissioner Phil Chamberland said, “$8,000 in the scheme of things is not a lot of money but, frankly, I don’t see how this fits into the county’s mission. Why would the county fund this? Because it is within Gunnison city limits and the city will benefit? Part of our directive as a county is to fund projects that support either economic development or affordable housing and I don’t see that here.”
Commissioner Jonathan Houck agreed, stating, “The $8,000 is not the issue. The hard part for me is that both Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte have things they want to develop and I am worried about opening that door so that the county becomes the funding mechanism for developers.”
Gunnison Rising consultant Alex Joyce countered by arguing that this was a unique opportunity for the county to become involved during the initial development stage and to be able to drive the economic development along Highway 50 at the entrance to Gunnison.
“$8,000 for you to have a seat at the table to develop 600 acres at the entrance to town seems like a bargain to me,” said Joyce. “The alternative is for us to develop plans in isolation and then bring them to you already partially set in stone.”
“There is also the alternative that you invite us to have a seat at the table without asking us for money,” countered Chamberland. “We are one hundred percent willing to participate and we have talented county staff and expertise in our development department to help with planning. If we were going to support you financially, we need a commitment that deed-restricted housing would be part of this development.”
Joyce considered the idea and responded saying that the housing piece could be “affordable by design” rather than by deed restriction. “We could create spaces for workforce housing that might be affordable by design. Build them small and efficiently and they are affordable,” said Joyce.
In the end, the commissioners did not commit to the funding request but no vote was called, as it was a work session.