Thursday, May 28, 2020

Crested Butte and Land Trust strike deal over Kikel parcel up Slate River

What to do about future home site

By Mark Reaman

A key piece of conservation property in the north valley will be changing hands in an effort to further protect the future of the parcel and the gateway to the Slate River Valley.

The Crested Butte Town Council and the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT) will enter an agreement that could relieve some CBLT debt, help with the finances of the proposed Long Lake conservation project and provide for a future structure that could house a human presence to help monitor and manage open space in the area.

Basically, the town has agreed to purchase half of the 70-acre Kikel property, also known as the Slate River Trailhead property, from the Land Trust for $530,000.

The original 70-acre parcel was purchased by the CBLT in May 2007 at the height of the real estate boom for $2.68 million. Several entities helped provide funding for the parcel but the CBLT took out a loan to close the deal. The land was divided into two parcels and one of those was designated as a parcel for potential resale by the Land Trust to raise money for future open space projects. Five acres was carved out as a home site with restrictions limiting the size and scope of a future home but it was located over the Slate River in an attractive spot.

“The Kikel property sees the second most recreational use in the upper valley,” CBLT executive director Noel Durant told the council at the April 1 meeting. “It is the site of the primary winter trailhead for the Slate River valley and the upper section is where the Lupine-2 trail is located. These 70 acres are critical for recreation management in the area.”

With the sale, the two entities could revise the conservation easement to further restrict or even eliminate the five -acre home site on the 35-acre property. But the Land Trust and the town are both lobbying to keep the option open for the future. Durant said the goal is to not allow another home site on the land that would fractionalize recreation use. Instead, a small potential home site with a limited footprint could be constructed in the future to be used as a sort of guard station that could allow someone to monitor the area.

“A future town council would make the decision on allowing the structure out there,” Durant said.

“This is something that would not happen for a long while,” added Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman. “But it would provide the opportunity for an actual presence in the valley. It is the last chance as a parcel to have something like that. The intent is to bring language back to you as the council that would define the conservation easement as you intend it. That language would be considered by you in June or July. Keeping that opportunity provides a future town planner and future town councils with options that might be needed in 20 years.”

Honeydew Murray lives in a nearby subdivision and raised several issues primarily centered on any future building on the parcel. She expressed concern about a road being needed to access any house on the five-acre site, along with parking areas and utility structures such as electric poles to service a new house.

“There are all kinds of things to be considered,” Murray said. “There are positives and negatives with someone living up there, especially if they were allowed year-round.”

Durant said there would be issues with allowing a new road to be built to service a home on the site and the CBLT would likely not accept such a move. He also said that he has talked to the Gunnison County Electric Association and electric lines can be located underground in that area.

“The town has no immediate plans to do anything there,” emphasized Yerman. “Details of a house would be up to a council in probably 20 years or more. But we know what the future looks like and that includes more use of public lands and less federal funding to maintain those lands. This provides some options and an opportunity to keep the option of some sort of house out there. To say exactly what the situation will look like in 20 years is naïve.”

Yerman assured Murray that there would be a public hearing concerning the purchase and the language of a conservation easement that would guide any future home site on the property.

Durant explained the Land Trust plans to use $400,000 of the purchase price for the Long Lake land exchange proposal that is set to close with the U.S. Forest Service in May. The other $130,000 would go to pay off debt unless the money was needed for the Long Lake project. “The purchase money gives us flexibility,” he told the council.

Mayor Jim Schmidt reminded the council that as part of the Long Lake land exchange project, part of the transaction funding, about $2.5 million, would go to the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation for affordable housing projects in the valley.

The council voted 7-0 to approve the purchase agreement with the CBLT land for $530,000. Council members are expected to see a contract and conservation easement language concerning restrictions on the future home site in late June or early July.

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