Sunday, August 9, 2020

Corner at Brush Creek proposal appears dead

Towns and Gatesco can’t agree

By Mark Reaman

In a relatively brief discussion at Monday’s Town Council meeting, the Crested Butte council decided to not shift from their Corner at Brush Creek position and will stay in alignment with Mt. Crested Butte. 

That means the developer, Gatesco, Inc., has not obtained the necessary consent of three of the four parties in the Memorandum of Understanding that controls the property to move forward into the county’s preliminary plan review process. The official deadline to obtain that consent is October 31 but this particular plan appears dead as representatives on both sides admit no agreement is likely.

Gatesco principal Gary Gates had hoped for a different outcome. “We will just keep moving forward on the Gunnison project for the time being,” he said Tuesday in reference to the 75-unit Rock Creek affordable housing project he is developing in the city of Gunnison on county property. “I will still be available for a Brush Creek project and will participate on any requests for proposals. They will find it difficult, though, to find another participant who is willing to fund a development with as little public financing as I am.”

After a series of several meetings over five months, the two towns agreed that in addition to the 41 conditions placed on the project by the county Planning Commission, the developer should also build no more than 156 units, should provide two parking spaces per unit and should leave five acres of open space for a future use. 

Gates has said that made the project financially unfeasible and he could not meet those numbers. Both towns held firm on their negotiated compromise and rejected the Gatesco proposal to limit the units to 156 but provide 1.65 parking spaces per unit and set aside 3.5 acres for the future.

There has been no shortage of friction between Gatesco and some members of both town councils while the project has been in front of the public. The county commissioners put the October 31 deadline on both parties in an effort to see if a solution could be reached. It apparently can’t.

Jeff Moffett represented the Gatesco team at the October 21 council meeting. “Even through all of this I have a sense of hope that we will find a solution to the affordable housing problem in the county,” he told the council as he recounted meeting a vocal member of the development’s opposition but having a positive conversation. 

“At this time, the Gatesco team does not see how it can obtain approval of and develop a project that complies with the sketch plan conditions and the three additional conditions subsequently added by the towns,” Moffett said. 

“The combined effects of meeting the county Sketch Plan conditions, the towns’ three conditions, meeting the county open space requirements, the snow storage requirements, setbacks, building height limitations and other physical constraints, in a cost-effective manner that also allows compliance with the pro rata AMI [Area Median Income] requirements from the sketch plan leaves us questioning the feasibility of such a project at this time,” continued Moffett. “A couple of councilors have expressed a preference for ‘starting over’ with a new RFP process. We hope that it does not come to that, but if it does, we hope the new RFP will adequately reflect the economics of affordable housing—low rents covering high construction costs. If you’re willing to allow it to move forward, the proposals [156/1.65/3.5] in the October 1, 2019 letter to the MOA parties remain.”

 “We worked hard with Mt. Crested Butte to reach our conditions and think we should stay with them,” said councilwoman Laura Mitchell.

“I was hoping they would accept the conditions we worked hard to arrive at with Mt. Crested Butte and move forward,” added councilman Paul Merck. “We need housing.”

“If we start over I hope we start right up front with a more public process,” said mayor Jim Schmidt. “I have never seen a public housing project come down with such animosity.”

Council advocate for the project Will Dujardin said he was disappointed with the outcome. “We are dealing with growth in this community and we need housing,” he said. “We are turning down a private subsidy for a substantial project. I feel some have put on their emotional caps more than their thinking caps with this project. But the majority wants to restart the process.”

“It appears that with both towns not coming to an agreement with Mr. Gates, the project won’t go to preliminary plan,” concluded Schmidt.

County attorney David Baumgarten confirmed the project could not continue in the county’s review process without the support of three of the four landowners.

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