Sticking to 156/2/5 could end project
By Mark Reaman
While an official vote was not taken Monday by the Crested Butte Town Council on whether to move off the compromise conditions set with Mt. Crested Butte over the proposed Corner at Brush Creek project, all indications are that the majority of the council is done negotiating.
The council majority appears ready to stand with last week’s Mt. Crested Butte vote to stay with the three conditions of allowing no more than 156 units, requiring two parking spots for each unit and setting aside five acres of the property for a future use.
So unless the project developer, Gatesco, Inc. either agrees with the two towns’ 156/2/5 compromise or can convince the Crested Butte council to move to its latest proposal of 156 units with a 3.5-acre set-aside and 1.65 parking spaces per unit, this particular project could be over.
The Gunnison County commissioners gave Gatesco until October 31 to obtain the formal consent of at least three of the four parties to the Memorandum of Understanding between the county, the two towns and Crested Butte Mountain Resort (the four owners of the land) before allowing Gatesco to submit a preliminary plan application.
Crested Butte Town Council members Will Dujardin and Candice Bradley advocated to continue negotiating with Gatesco, while the rest of the council voiced support to stick with the 156/2/5 numbers. Councilwoman Laura Mitchell was not at the meeting.
Mt. Crested Butte councilman Dwayne Lehnertz attended the October 7 meeting and said his council voted 4-3 to remain on the 156/2/5 compromise since that was agreed to with the town of Crested Butte after five months of discussion. “That was something we all spent a lot of time getting to in good faith,” he said.
Dujardin said he agreed with the tone of a letter from project supporter Jim Starr and said the two sides were so close in numbers that the town should consider more negotiations.
Starr’s letter to the council asked, “Are we really going to pass up or significantly delay 156 units of affordable rental housing and $20,000,000 in private equity for a $40,000,000 project at Brush Creek over a difference in parking of .35 parking spaces per unit, and 1.5 acres of set-aside?”
“A 4-3 vote would suck either way it went,” Dujardin said. “I wholeheartedly stand behind what Jim Starr says. Gatesco is saying that’s it from their end. Now is the time to explore all other options in the next few weeks. Maybe we push for four acres to be set aside to try to get it into the preliminary plan review. If you think 1.65 parking spaces is not enough, maybe we get 1.8.”
“I agree with Dwayne,” countered Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. “What we did with Mt. Crested Butte was a big compromise. It was a long way from the number of units I wanted. I think about Anthracite Place, where the community came together to support that and the county and Mt. Crested Butte and this town all contributed money to it. And again, this project seems so controversial and laden with doubts. I am fine with the numbers we got to.”
“We’re not that far away from making something happen,” said Dujardin.
“I’m not convinced this is the right proposal,” said Schmidt.
“I see no reason to keep revisiting the issue we worked out with Mt. Crested Butte just because they keep asking,” said councilwoman Mallika Magner. “We want a good project. We want a project where the people there will have a good lifestyle, not a place where someone gets home to after working a double and can’t find a place to park.”
“You are making a lot of assumptions, Mallika,” said Dujardin.
“I’m questioning this process,” she replied.
Lehnertz suggested the council review the latest numbers in a revised Housing Needs Assessment that he said proved the Gatesco project misses the mark with what is needed.
Friend of Brush Creek attorney David Leinsdorf said he felt Starr’s letter contained some misstatements and reminded the council that of the 156 units in the proposal, many could charge essentially free market rents, so all 156 units shouldn’t be considered “affordable rental housing.”
Leinsdorf refuted a line in Starr’s letter that stated, “We are experiencing a significant slowing in the generation of sales tax and I can’t help but believe it is caused in part because of the decreasing work force available for our businesses,” by noting that sales tax collections in town were again reported as up over last year by 5.5 percent in August and 2.7 percent for the year.
Leinsdorf also said the parking should be based on number of occupants as opposed to the number of units. He estimated there would be about 400 people living in the 156 units, so 312 parking spaces would not be adequate. “I also urge you to not abandon your ally of Mt. Crested Butte if the north end of the valley wants to have any influence at the county,” he said. “This town initiated the discussion between the two towns and you all worked hard for five months on a compromise.”
Former councilman Kent Cowherd, who had been heavily involved in watching the evolution of the project, also encouraged the town to stand by the 156/2/5 compromise, which he said was fair. “I don’t understand why Gatesco doesn’t fully embrace the three conditions. Then the two councils would support it. All of this friction is unnecessary.”
Dujardin again asked his fellow council members if there was room to compromise in the next couple of weeks, but he didn’t get much support.
Councilman Chris Haver indicated he supported the two towns and didn’t want to negotiate with themselves.
Councilman Paul Merck said he was surprised Gatesco hasn’t agreed to the 156/2/5. “We worked hard for five months to reach this compromise, which was pretty amazing,” he said. “I was surprised we got there. So I think we should stick to it. I feel the compromise is a win for the Gatesco team if it meets those three conditions,”
Bradley disagreed, as she pointed out she was looking for rental housing while no one else on the council was in such a position. “I just have a weird feeling that I’m starving for housing and someone is holding up a loaf of bread and we are saying you can’t have it,” she said. “I think we should work to make something work.”
“I agree with you,” responded Merck. “And I feel we worked a lot to get to the compromise.”
“Is there no way to compromise more?” asked Dujardin. “I feel that compromise was designed to kill the project.”
“I don’t think the compromise was ever meant to kill the project,” retorted Haver.
The only Gatesco representative at the meeting was Jeff Moffett, who didn’t say much other than that the letter sent by Gary Gates to the two councils on October 1 was “designed to provide more thorough explanations” of the Gatesco team’s reasoning for their proposal.
Schmidt noted that there was no requirement to take a formal vote on the issue but that it would be on the agenda at the October 21 council meeting.