Necessity and impending application for Hunter Ridge parcel at county spurs update
By Cayla Vidmar
Mt. Crested Butte community development director Carlos Velado presented an updated three-mile boundary plan to the Town Council on Tuesday, July 17. The plan, which recommends the development of land within the three-mile boundary of the town, has not been updated since 2007.
The need to update the plan, along with the recent Hunter Ridge annexation denial and expected application for the parcel to the county, has prompted the Gunnison County Planning Commission to review the plan. The 10.28 parcel, known locally as Hunter Ridge, is located in Mt. Crested Butte within the three-mile boundary of the town. The council agreed to hold a work session on August 21 at 5 p.m. to review the plan.
According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ (DOLA) three-mile plan reference document, “The three-mile plan is a long range planning opportunity for municipalities to consider where they want to annex … It ensures that the municipality will annex land only when it is consistent with pre-existing plans for the surrounding area.”
The state DOLA document continues, stating “The failure to plan specifically for the physical growth of a municipality can result in haphazard annexation that proves expensive to the municipality annexing the land, the county in which the land is located and the neighboring communities.”
According to Velado, “Essentially it’s an update. The Planning Commission’s thought was to go off the existing plan, change some language, update service providers—and that’s what you have in the [Mt. Crested Butte] document.”
Mayor Todd Barnes kicked off the discussion, saying to town manager Joe Fitzpatrick, “We talked about this in 2005 and 2006 that we needed to establish a direction for the three-mile plan, and attempted in 2007 to finally get around to it. Eleven years have gone by, so it’s time.”
The update spurred discussion about the recent denial of the Hunter Ridge parcel, which is within the three-mile boundary of Mt. Crested Butte, and is considered an “area for potential growth,” according to the 2007 plan.
Earlier this summer, the county Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed annexation with conditions; however, the Town Council denied the proposal for multiple reasons. Reasons include needing better soil testing for the notoriously unstable mancos shale slope, the lack of need for this type of development and doubt that it would truly meet community goals.
The developer of the Hunter Ridge parcel, Jamie Watt, has stated he intends to take the application for development on the parcel to the county since it was denied by the town, but has not yet submitted the application at the time of writing.
Councilwoman Janet Farmer voiced her opposition to the Hunter Ridge parcel being included as an area for potential growth, stating “Given our vote last time 6 to 1 to not approve moving forward on that parcel for now, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have that piece of property in there as an area for potential growth.”
Barnes replied, “You realize you’re leaving all future earnings to the county and all development decisions to the county right?” To clarify, the developer, Watt, can still go to the county to develop the parcel of land regardless of the denial from the town of Mt. Crested Butte.
Farmer countered, stating, “Well, we can change it next year if we find out different information, but with the information we have now and the vote we had, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have that parcel in the category for potential development.”
Councilman Dwayne Lehnertz jumped in, saying, “It’s my thinking that if we don’t do something on that piece of property, the county probably will.”
“Not necessarily. They will look at what we decided to do and then make their decision,” countered Farmer.
“I just came away from our discussion about Hunter Ridge, when we voted not to accept the proposal, thinking that there were a lot of happy people leaving out of here, but to my thinking, all we did was just open the door to not being in control of that parcel,” said Lehnertz. “I don’t know if being in control of that parcel is important or not, but my concern is that we get it right.”
Councilman Steven Morris asked if the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners considers the three-mile plan when making decisions regarding development, to which Farmer replied, “I’ve heard they will.”
Velado jumped in, saying, “This is our plan for what we want to bring into the town, which we have subsequently denied,” referring to the Hunter Ridge parcel and its allocation as an area for potential growth in the 2007 three-mile plan.
Velado continued, saying, “So now there’s an application for the county, and being as [Hunter Ridge is] within our three-mile boundary, we are afforded the opportunity to respond to that application. Then it’s up to the Board of County Commissioners to the level of consideration they give to that response.”
The discussion waned, and mayor Barnes stated the plan was important enough to hold a work session. That work session will be held at the August 21 Town Council meeting, followed by a consideration for approval.