Council opts for demonstrated need, rather than moratorium to begin construction
By Cayla Vidmar
Before a packed house at the May 15 Mt. Crested Butte Town Council meeting, the council voted 4-2 to approve the hotly debated Nordic Inn parking lot proposal. The lot, which is north of the Nordic Inn on Treasury Road, is slated to be 140 or fewer parking spaces.
The parking lot is a part of a larger planned unit development (PUD) proposal that includes the rezoning of several other lots owned by the Nordic Inn for future development and business growth. Neighbors and board members alike say they want to see the Nordic Inn grow and succeed, but many oppose the parking lot, in part because of what they see as a conflict of interest.
In short, the town will basically purchase the land from the Nordic Inn and is the deciding vote on whether to approve the PUD proposal, which it did on May 15.
The owners of the Nordic Inn, Pearls Management, represented by attorney Aaron Huckstep, have worked with those in opposition to the lot to address concerns about the parking lot. Part of that work resulted in a proposed five to seven-year moratorium on building on the site.
Under the direction of town attorney, Kathleen Fogo, the council decided to remove the moratorium, opting instead for demonstrated need for more parking to dictate when the lot would be built.
“Putting a moratorium in there is poor future planning in my opinion because you’re reducing flexibility to help the town when we need it,” said Fogo. Mayor Todd Barnes echoed that sentiment, stating, “The concern is that if the need to build falls before the moratorium time frame, the town is restricted.”
Ultimately, despite strident neighbor opposition to the proposal, the Town Council approved the PUD request that opened up the process for the town of Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority to purchase the property from the Nordic Inn owners and eventually construct the parking lot. Council members Ken Lodovico and Nicholas Kempin voted against the motion.
In terms of determining need to build the parking lot, the only condition currently put in place, according to town manager Joseph Fitzpatrick, is the loss of the 160-space Snowmass parking lot located near the Plaza condominium complex, which is leased by the town. The renewal for that lease is up this fall.
The Nordic Inn lot will be purchased using Downtown Development Authority (DDA) funds, and will be owned by the town of Mt. Crested Butte. Parking has been a priority for the DDA since its inception in 1998, and this lot was a priority as part of the proposed Biery-Witt Center, which has since been withdrawn. Even with the Biery-Witt Center taken off the table, the DDA is still looking to fill parking needs, which will be addressed by this purchase.
The purchase price is $1,050,000, with construction estimated between $800,000 to $995,000 depending on the design of the lot. The town staff, town attorney and the Pearls attorney are currently working through changes in the purchase agreement. When changes are finalized the contract will be put in front of Town Council to approve.