Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Corner at Brush Creek ball is in Mt. CB council’s court

“The town of Mt. CB holds the fulcrum”

By Cayla Vidmar

 All eyes seem to be on the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, as they hold the final vote to either allow the Corner at Brush Creek to move forward in the preliminary plan phase of the county’s Land Use Resolution process, or stop the project altogether.

With a number of council members absent from the August 7 council meeting, scheduling a future meeting to discuss the project with county attorney David Baumgarten was postponed. The project is currently hanging in limbo until a vote is made. The council received comments from numerous supporters of the project on August 7, but gave no indication of how the council is leaning after the sketch plan recommendations were approved by county commissioners.

“The approved sketch plan resolution is long enough in its recommendations and in its finding, long enough in its conditions that I would suggest it really deserves a good studied reading by you,” stated Baumgarten to the council.

Baumgarten had three things he wanted the council to understand: first, that the approval of sketch plan is not a pre-determination of what will happen in preliminary or final plan; second, that the applicant is requesting that they will not be moved forward into preliminary plan until three of the four MOA partners agree to sell the property for the project; and third, that there are “still a host of issues that I can talk about in a narrative fashion, that require a significant discussion,” said Baumgarten.

It was clear that Baumgarten did not wish to dive into specifics of the sketch plan recommendation before council had a chance to review the 41 conditions the county approved for the project. He concluded his presentation stating, “I believe anyone can say that the discussion has been attended to, there is movement and that movement is informed by your participation. The town of Mt. Crested Butte holds the fulcrum.”

The council initially allowed only stakeholders of the project to speak. Kendall Burgemeister, the attorney representing the applicant, Gatesco, Inc., stated that he didn’t have much more to add, but concluded, “Certainly, we feel like the significant change was the reduction of density, and that was a concern you all had, and that density was reduced by 25 percent. We hope we’re moving in the right direction for approval.”

David Leinsdorf, representing the public group that has been in opposition of the project, Friends of Brush Creek, asked, “I would just like to make a procedural request that when you meet with [county attorney] David and Rachel, and the applicant that it be in a public forum that’s properly noticed so the people who are interested in the project can hear.”

Mayor Todd Barnes was more or less on board, stating “Anyone who wants to come and listen can—it’s mostly been over coffee in the Mountaineer Square.” To which Baumgarten said, “I will opt to not meet in an open public format, and I know that may offend some people’s sensibilities, but conducting the meetings privately is the manner in which I will conduct these meetings.”

Crested Butte Town Council member Kent Cowherd approached the Mt. Crested Butte council, stating “We’re very happy you guys are united in opposition with the project as proposed.” Cowherd gave the council the three-page recommendations the town of Crested Butte sent to the county prior to sketch plan approval, saying, “The county declined to include our recommendations. We don’t believe 41 conditions is sufficient.”

The three pages of recommendations compiled by the Crested Butte council included: parking; an athletic field; changes to the number of units at an AMI of 140 percent or less; and no flat-roofed buildings.

Cowherd concluded, saying, “We support affordable housing at that location, but the overall impacts of the density in that location far outweigh the benefits it will provide.”

At which point, Jim Rayburg, a member of the public, tried to voice his opinion on the project. Barnes said, “Hold on, it’s not really a public hearing, I’ve allowed the parties involved, being Friends of Brush Creek, being the applicant himself, and the town of Crested Butte to speak,” and then asked the council if they would like to hear public comment.

Burgemeister interjected, saying, “To be clear, the Friends of Brush Creek is a well organized group, but they are a member of the public, so other members of the public who might be in favor of the project should be allowed to speak.”

After much back and forth between council members, it was decided that members of the public would be allowed to speak. Among the handful who chose to speak, most were in favor of the project.

Kyleena Falzone, owner of The Secret Stash and Bonez, who has openly spoken in support of the project, argued on behalf of the 150 seasonal workers she employs. She implored the council and likely those in opposition of the project to “Come down and work there for 40 hours a week, do dishes until midnight, and then try to hitchhike to go home, or go sleep in a tent and wake up and do it all again. Employees are coming into work unshowered because they’re having to camp. Is that what we want? Saying no to this shouldn’t be an option.”

Scott Brickerts, a long-time resident in Three Seasons, cited the carbon footprint required to commute to and from Crested Butte from Gunnison, stating that one person in one year emits 16,000 pounds of carbon in their work commute alone. “Let’s wrestle with the details so that small people, without deep pockets, can live their dreams,” Brickerts concluded. “This is the first of many projects needed for density in our village, so ironing out wrinkles now is painful because it’s the first one.”

Among those in opposition, the same issues were discussed, including density, parking, and the wastewater treatment facility. Grant Bremer, an employee of the East River Water District and resident of Skyland, spoke of his concern with the Skyland subdivision being excluded from the conversation in the early stages, and his leeriness of letting the project go into preliminary plan. He implored the council to hammer out as much detail as possible now.

The council is planning to hold a work session on the Brush Creek topic, but no date has been set at the time of print.

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