Site plan, parking, density, ball fields
By Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Town Council attempted to narrow down what it wants to discuss with their counterparts in Mt. Crested Butte about what it would take to get their okay on proceeding with the Gatesco Inc. proposal for affordable housing at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135.
The council held a long discussion on the matter at the September 17 meeting and basically agreed they needed more information on things like water availability; the economic feasibility of the plan; and the potential impacts to the town.
They wanted to talk to Mt. Crested Butte about asking for five acres of the 14-acre property to be set aside for future parking and/or recreational facilities; limiting the remaining acreage to no more than 15 housing units per acre; seeing an updated site design with the new upper limit of 180 units; having the county housing authority manage the rentals; and again discussing the idea of including some “for sale” units in the project.
“The idea is to have five or six issues we can come to consensus on and move forward with Mt. Crested Butte at our October 1 joint work session,” explained Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. “Because this is public property, there is, for example, a different obligation to make sure the project is economically feasible.”
Councilman Chris Haver suggested that an independent expert be hired to analyze the project, its long-term economic feasibility and its impacts on the town. “I feel it would be beneficial to have an expert lay out the ramifications of the project on the community,” he said. “I want to know the benefits and drawbacks from an outside professional who is not emotionally involved in this current process.”
“Gary Gates [of Gatesco Inc.] said he would open up his numbers but it is up to us to determine if it is feasible,” said councilman Kent Cowherd.
Schmidt said seeing a revised site plan with the new density limit of 180 units was important. “Gates said he wouldn’t do any more work on those types of things with the project without an okay to go to the next phase of the county review, but you can’t okay something without seeing it,” said Schmidt. “It seems we all need to see a site design to move forward.”
“It is hugely important,” said Cowherd.
Parking too was hugely important to most council members. “Parking is so essential and will be more so when the Vail deal is finalized, especially after we heard from others who have had the impact of Vail buying their resort,” said Schmidt. “If we are looking at things down the road and we expect to get busier as a result of this sale, parking will become more and more essential.”
Councilman Jackson Petito wondered who would use an intercept parking lot if one were built on the property two miles south of town. Haver said since most visitors would not be day skiers but rather extended-stay visitors, tourists would likely have parking at their lodging property. So, he hypothesized that much of the parking space would be used by locals going to ski or work, especially if tighter parking regulations are imposed in the town.
The idea of cutting off a five-acre slice of the land to be used for such a parking lot and potential recreational fields appealed to most of the council. Councilman Will Dujardin has said he believes five acres was too much and wanted to separate the discussion about land for parking from land for ball fields. He has consistently argued for more density for housing on the land.
“I think setting aside two acres works,” Dujardin suggested. “I think that is a good middle ground. The land was originally set aside for parking and not ball fields. I’d like to separate the conversation over parking and the conversation over fields. They shouldn’t be linked.”
“I brought up including a ball field because I think it helps that neighborhood be a part of the community and not just a block of apartments,” said Haver. “Look at Crested Butte South. It has ball fields and an ice rink. It helps make that a community.”
“I agree it needs at least a good pocket park for the kids out there for those reasons,” added council member Laura Mitchell.
“We are already deficient in the county with parking, so that five acres is critical,” said Cowherd.
“And if you eliminate recreational fields, understand that everything will be funneled into Crested Butte,” said Schmidt.
“We can frame it as setting aside land for future uses and discuss the details with Mt. Crested Butte,” said councilman Jackson Petito.
The council wanted to revisit the idea of including ownership units in the project. While it was noted that several deed-restricted “for sale” units were coming online through a variety of public efforts, the council generally felt ownership was an important element to the plan. But Mitchell noted that getting a mortgage for such a unit could be challenging.
Density was discussed as well. Cowherd felt 15 units per acre could be accomplished in a way that kept the plan attractive and avoided what he said were consistent problems with the Pitchfork subdivision, which has a similar density. He said that might mean condensing units into fewer, larger buildings with more massing. “Maybe that 15 unit per acre number could work on the acreage that’s left if it is designed correctly,” he said.
“That’s why seeing a site design matters,” said Haver.
Schmidt noted that the Gatesco developers were apparently pitching Western Colorado University to utilize some units for staff. “That goes against affordable housing 101, where you put the housing near the jobs. That just adds to traffic issues.”
Overall, the council said it would address those topics and whatever the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council felt were appropriate issues. The two councils will meet October 1 before the Crested Butte Town Council Meeting.