Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Town continues with proposed demolition ordinance

Affordable housing a big part of the idea

By Mark Reaman

An ordinance that would regulate demolitions of residential buildings in Crested Butte is getting a review by the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) and will be considered by the Crested Butte Town Council in September.

The draft making its way through the system would basically require that aside from historical homes built during the so-called Period of Significance (before 1952), any residential demolition would have to be approved by the town. Buildings built before 1952 are not eligible for demolition unless they are deemed to be unsafe, creating a substantial risk of injury or damage to property.

Applicants would have to show that the structure deserves to be torn down based on a number of considerations such as not meeting town design guidelines, or not being safe in terms of things like poor electrical systems or mold infestation.

Before a demolition permit is granted, approved redevelopment replacement plans would need to be in place for the lot. A homeowner could replace the structure with a larger one but would then be required to include an accessory dwelling unit on-site that is deed-restricted for affordable housing as a long-term rental. If the replacement structure is the same size as the structure demolished, the standard affordable housing payment-in-lieu requirements would be accepted.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman told the council at an August 20 work session that there is an incentive for homeowners to renovate a home instead of tearing it down and starting over, since they could expand an existing structure without incurring the affordable housing requirement.

The August 20 meeting centered on the philosophy behind the demolition ordinance, with much of the discussion taking place between the council and August Hasz of Resource Engineering Group, who has dealt with demolition projects in Crested Butte and other mountain resort communities, including Aspen.

Crested Butte is nearing the “inflection point” where cost doesn’t matter to some homeowners, Hasz told the council, so if the council thinks demolitions will be limited because of fees and expensive mandates they are mistaken.

“As prices here go up, an $800,000 shack will end up being a couple of million dollars to renovate. The cost of the fees in the project won’t be a deterrent. Instead, you have to use the opportunity to offset the need for affordable housing or whatever,” Hasz explained. “The cost of renovation versus a rebuild doesn’t matter at that point. We deal with clients with $30 million a month income streams so they’ll do whatever they can to get what they want. Money isn’t a factor, really.”

Councilman Paul Merck said that a demolition and rebuild can have benefits above a renovation, since, “A lot of times you’ll end up with a better structure after a demolition instead of a renovation. But there’s a lot of factors involved.”

Hasz agreed and said the old saying that the “greenest house is one that is already built” isn’t necessarily true. He said considering the broad scope of the structure from embodied energy used to construct it to energy efficiency during its life is complicated.

“Generally, the 1970s and 1980s seem the worst construction period in the history of Crested Butte,” Hasz said. “There were some really bad and inefficient houses built then. And as far as recycling those structures, it isn’t very successful. There is very little that comes out of those old houses that can be reused efficiently.”

Hasz gave the council and town kudos for addressing the demolition issue but said it was a huge undertaking. “My recommendation is that you have to determine whether the mass, scale and character is enough to preserve,” he said. “If it is, do the current BOZAR regulations do that?”

Yerman said the ordinance addresses mass and scale by mandating that if a property owner wants to demolish a building and build larger, they have to provide an affordable housing element. The council liked that aspect of the ordinance and seemed to lean toward requiring that the affordable unit would have to be placed onsite. For example, a homeowner couldn’t purchase an existing condo in another part of town or the valley to meet that requirement.

“This is definitely a tough, tough thing to consider but it is important for town,” Yerman told the council.

The council will consider the ordinance at the September 3 meeting after BOZAR reviews it first.

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