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Planning Commission sets public hearing for Hunter Ridge

Questions concerning access and geology remain

By Kristy Acuff

A proposed 16-unit housing development adjacent to Mt. Crested Butte moved closer to sketch plan approval as the Gunnison County Planning Commission moved to set a public hearing on the proposal for Friday, September 6 at 10:30 a.m.

After discussing the potential impacts of the development that includes four triplexes and four single-family homes, planning commissioners determined the development is “substantially similar” to surrounding neighborhoods in terms of density and moved the project to the next step. The proposed development is outside the town boundary of Mt. Crested Butte and is subject to approval from the Gunnison County Planning Commission. Questions remain, however, about access and potential geologic hazards.

“One issue that is still hanging out there is access,” said planning commissioner A.J. Cattles. “Accessing through Mt. Crested Butte has been one of the giant question marks in my mind.”

The town of Mt. Crested Butte has stated it could deny access along Hunter Hill Road due to the number of units proposed in the development, according to Mt. Crested Butte community development director Carlos Velado. “The town stance at this time is that we do have the right to limit access along that portion of Hunter Ridge,” said Velado. “We might limit access for say, 16 units.”

Developer Jamie Watt disagrees that the town has a legal right to deny access and contends that doing so would amount to a “taking” of private property rights.

“Access is a fundamental right of property ownership. The property abuts a public street,” explained Watts’ attorney, Mike Dawson. “The attorney for Mt. Crested Butte has not given us any statute to deny access. If they deny access, that is a taking and we will be in court.”

“Can we ask our county attorney to weigh in on the access issue?” Cattles asked county director of planning and development Cathie Pagano.

“This is an issue between the applicant and Mt. Crested Butte,” responded Pagano. “The applicant does not have to demonstrate that they have legal access at this time. They don’t need that until the preliminary plan stage.”

Planning commissioners also discussed whether the proposed 8,500-square-foot buildings are compatible with surrounding neighborhoods in Mt. Crested Butte, a requirement of the county’s Land Use Resolution (LUR) that regulates development on county land.

“The proposal is very similar to Mt. Crested Butte in terms of density and in fact, it is lower density than other developments down the road,” said Cattles.

Pagano pointed out that in addition to density similarities, the county’s LUR requires that lot sizes be “substantially similar” to surrounding neighborhoods. All of the Planning Commission members agreed that the proposal also met the lot size requirements. “There are similar lot sizes in the neighborhood above and adjacent to the proposed development,” said commission member Jack Dianni.

Finally, Pagano explained that while not required at this point in the application, if the proposal makes it to the preliminary plan stage, Watts must complete a more detailed geologic analysis.

“I want to reiterate that the question of potential geologic hazards has not been fully resolved. The Colorado Geological Survey, which is the state agency that we use as a neutral third party review for geological hazard analysis, has indicated that they want to provide comment if and when the proposal reaches the preliminary plan stage,” said Pagano. “My recommendation is to require additional geologic information at preliminary plan. You may receive additional information at preliminary plan that makes this application untenable and that is a risk the applicant is taking.”

Whether the Planning Commission moves the proposed development to the preliminary plan stage will be discussed at the public hearing on Friday, September 6 at 10:30 a.m.

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