Monday, August 10, 2020

Council proceeds with new Paradise Park rental/cat barn

Neighbors say it’s getting pretty darn crowded

by Mark Reaman

Neighbors of a proposed student build project in Paradise Park near the town Recreation Path bridge raised big-picture questions about the direction and master planning of the increasingly busy neighborhood.

At the August 6 town council meeting, the Crested Butte Town Council gave the nod for Crested Butte Nordic and the Student Organization Achieving Results (SOAR) program to design and build a small affordable housing unit with an oversized garage that will be used to store a snowcat. The building will also include a public restroom. SOAR is finishing up a second affordable house in Crested Butte South and hopes to complete its next project in town.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said there were two options located in the Paradise Park subdivision.

The first is on a lot that is impacted by the 100-year floodplain—a location that he said would make it nearly impossible for someone other than the town to secure financing. That project has a projected budget of about $250,000 and Crested Butte Nordic has committed $40,000 and several workdays to reduce labor costs.

A snowcat storage facility would then be located on the east side of town for winter trail grooming.

The second option is to construct a traditional residential building on a micro lot in Paradise Park, which would have a budget of about $300,000.

Council lined up behind the first option after hearing from Nordic advocates and listening to concerns from neighbors who live near the site.

“Crested Butte Nordic has seen a lot of growth in the last 10 years and we’re excited to be part of this type of collaborative process,” said Crested Butte Nordic executive director Christie Hicks. “We have gone from a couple hundred season pass holders to more than 1,000. We are always looking for additional storage and this project solves a lot of problems.”

Hicks said that while there could be some possible noise issues, the sound is similar to a snowplow at the worst, but Crested Butte Nordic understood the need to be respectful of the neighbors. “It won’t be used as a maintenance shed. It is important for the [snow]cat to be in close proximity to our trails.”

SOAR founder John Stock said the non-profit is getting close to being self-sustaining and this project is another step toward that goal. Ultimately, Stock said, the idea is for the students to have even more decision making power in the overall process.

Neighbor Mike Horn and his family live across the street from the lot being proposed for the snowcat storage. “We are a big fan of SOAR and the Nordic program,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff going on in that neighborhood both summer and winter. I’ve been asking myself, ‘What is the master plan for Paradise Park?’ We are all trying to wrap our heads around it. It seems everything is funneling into this area. There is a community growing down there and there are a lot of growing pains. My concern is less about this particular structure and more about a needed master plan.

“I want to see people down there but what is the big picture?” Horn continued. “There is no question that combining residential with high impact recreation creates issues. What will it look like when it is fully built out with homes and the recreation growth increases even more?”

Neighbor Trevor Main agreed. “It is crazy how much use that zone gets,” he said. “It is absolutely crazy and frustrating at times to say the least. Adding more use to a place that has so much use already concerns me. Are there other options worth exploring? I’m excited to have more neighbors but adding more and more use and traffic, is that what we want? I tend to go no.”

Horn and Main cited examples of recreation impacts such as people driving over Main’s front lawn to get their paddleboards that much closer to the Slate River put-in. People apparently start paddleboarding early and late, so the noisy pumps that fill the boards with air can start at 6 a.m. and end just before dark.

Hicks pointed out using the lot located in the floodplain would get a rental on a lot that might not get one and also provides a place for public restrooms.

Yerman, who also lives in the neighborhood, said he had seen “plenty of butts” this summer as people change into swimming suits. “A public restroom would act as a changing room as well and it is needed in both the summer and winter,” he said. He noted that as a new riverwalk trail is built in the area as part of the upcoming Slate River annexation and subdivision, even more people would be drawn to the area.

The council members all agreed that the first option addresses some big-picture issues and told the staff to pursue that proposal with the snowcat storage and public restrooms. They did not address the concerns of the neighbors or get into any long-term master planning discussion.

Yerman said design and rezoning work would start this fall. Ground would then be broken in the spring and he predicted a quick 10-week completion window for the project with the help of the Nordic volunteers and the SOAR summer work program.

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