“Sometimes you have to design the thing to meet the land”
By Alissa Johnson
The Crested Butte Town Council has voted to amend its pre-annexation agreement with Cypress Foothills, LP regarding the Slate River Annexation that will add 14 acres to the town of Crested Butte. The developer has been cleaning up the old landfill and installing infrastructure, and a few things arose that needed attention.
At the council’s September 4 meeting, Cypress vice president Cameron Aderhold walked the council through the benefits of the project and the proposed changes to a pre-annexation agreement first signed in 2016.
Among the changes, additional land is being transferred from the developer to the town work yard, creating more space for snow storage. A new covenant on land along the river will dedicate another .9 acres to the town to provide boater access as well as protect wetlands. And changes to land conservation covenants on another parcel will open up an additional .99 acres for possible future affordable housing development.
The changes also provide an easement to run a water line to the Crested Butte cemetery, and an 8-foot wide sidewalk extension along Eighth Street as part of the Safe Route to School program.
In return, Aderhold wanted to ensure that Cypress and eventually the homeowners association of Aperture Crested Butte, which is being developed on the east side of Slate River, would oversee maintenance of the river trail. He also sought clarification on water and sewer permits.
“We want to start construction on two different homes this year and pour foundations as soon as we get building permits,” he said.
Aderhold was also looking for some direction on how to handle wetland mitigation around the six developer-retained lots within the annexation.
Prior to discussing those proposed changes, however, the council listened to an assessment of the agreement and the changes from town planner Bob Nevins. Community development director Michael Yerman had asked him to compare annexation requirements to the actual benefits the town is receiving.
“I took the actual subdivision dedication requirement standards and the municipal code,” Nevins said, “and quantified what the requirement was and how the applicant met or exceeded them. In almost every case they far exceeded what is the minimum requirement.”
Among the examples that Nevins shared, the applicant has far exceeded requirements for lands set aside for parks, public facilities and public schooling—in some cases as much as three times the requirements. The bulk of the council discussion focused, however, on challenges related to wetland preservation.
As Yerman explained to the council, low quality wetlands near six developer-retained lots within the Slate River annexation would either require a retaining wall and the relocation of part of the wetland, or the reconfiguration of some of the lots.
“We met with Bikis Engineering and had a conversation with them about what it would take either to mitigate the wetlands or redo the configuration of this lot,” Yerman said. “While Bikis said you can certainly mitigate wetlands, engineering nature is not normally recommended.”
The engineering firm’s first recommendation was to leave the wetlands alone. Yet doing so, Yerman noted, would require some flexibility in the building envelopes of those six developer-retained lots. The alignment of the roads in that area would not follow the grid pattern seen throughout the rest of town and would require a new residential zoning district.
“After talking with Cameron [Aderhold] and his crew, I think they’re okay with either configuration,” Yerman said. “What we’re looking for tonight is direction to give to BOZAR [the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review].”
If the council was okay with leaving the wetlands in place, Yerman explained, BOZAR members would need to understand why the development of those lots would depart from the norm.
While councilmembers did ask for clarification, they were ultimately supportive of leaving the wetlands in place.
“Sometimes you have to design the thing to meet the land. We’ve never done that in Crested Butte, where we just have a grid put down, and we’ve been lucky not to have too many problems with it,” said Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt.
The council had more questions regarding a fence intended to separate snow storage from a sledding hill. Some had received questions about it from the public after fence posts were installed.
“I’m wondering why it needs to be a six-foot fence and couldn’t be four or five feet,” Schmidt said.
Yerman explained that the fence was intended for both screening and safety, given the proximity of snow storage to the sledding hill. “I think it is a legitimate concern, especially when you have a dump truck or loader moving snow,” he said.
In addition to flexibility with the fence design, councilmembers also wanted to see some small word changes related to medical facilities and public works uses of the land. Aderhold was comfortable with all of those changes. Before voting on the amendment, however, councilmember Kent Cowherd did point out that he had taken a tour of the property the day before.
“I observed a real mess going on down by the bridge where the silt fencing is supposed to be in place and protecting the river from runoff. In fact, it’s been completely disregarded and run over… You can see tracks in the river itself and can see silt flowing into the river,” Cowherd said.
He suggested that Cypress clean that up.
“Absolutely,” Cameron said. “Thanks for letting me know.”
The town council approved the changes to the agreement unanimously. Yerman hopes that full annexation proceedings will begin in late 2018.