CB council gets new direction on Community Compass idea

Looking for lots of public engagement and collaboration with Mt. Crested Butte

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council shifted direction Monday and has given a nod to town staff to pursue a so-called “Community Compass” master planning process in 2020. There was resistance to such an effort at the last council meeting as the council members felt engaging in such a long public process would take away from other projects, notably affordable housing.

“Sometimes we need to slow down to speed up,” town manager Dara MacDonald wrote in a memo to the council at the December 16 meeting. “Solutions to the complex questions facing the community are available and it may be helpful to slow down for a few months to allow for a deeper dialogue and understanding of the challenges so that we can then focus our intention and energy on the solutions… With a clear vision of where the community wants to be in the future the Town Council can quickly and clearly make choices that keep the town moving in the desired direction.”

The concept of the compass is to have a series of public outreach meetings and encounters with citizens to determine what the public sees as Crested Butte’s future. From there, the deeper analysis of how to handle conflicts within that future should be made clearer. For example, does putting solar panels on an historic building conflict with two separate community values?

MacDonald also noted that Mt. Crested Butte wanted to update its community plan so there was opportunity for collaboration to share resources in the planning process. She noted the two towns “currently enjoy the most productive working relationship in recent memory and the opportunities for collaboration are great.”

Councilman Chris Haver was not at the previous meeting and spoke in favor of the process. “I am a huge proponent of this,” he said. “Having a clear vision is important to me. It is important to know if my decisions are falling into what the community wants to be. It is a great opportunity to get some more public input into what our bright idea of Crested Butte is in 20 years.”

New council representative Mona Merrill agreed. “When knocking on doors during the campaign, the input I heard was what I expected but also enlightening,” she said. “For me, this is more about the tradeoffs needed to accomplish bold things. I think it is a great idea to pull the community back in and tell us what this place should look like in 20 years. Can the staff do it along with the other projects we would like?”

“If the council prerogative is to move ahead with this, we can accommodate it,” assured MacDonald.

“I’m in favor,” added council member Laura Mitchell. “It will buy us a balance. I think having goalposts and community engagement is beneficial.”

Council member Candice Bradley agreed.

“I am not a big fan of master plans but I feel going through this process can be valuable,” said mayor Jim Schmidt. “There are still things I remember from a similar process done many years ago. It is fair for the community to discuss its values and make sure we are respecting them.”

“It is my understanding it was either the Community Compass or affordable housing,” said council member Mallika Magner. “Is there bandwidth within the staff to do both?”

MacDonald again assured the council there was.

Council member Will Dujardin expressed some skepticism and said he hoped the process produced something different from similar projects like the ongoing One Valley Prosperity Project. “I appreciated Jim’s observation at the last meeting that the Crested Butte compass is sort of decided every two years with an election. This will have to go deeper than engaging people at a Kochevar’s Happy Hour, so good luck.”

Under a draft timeline given to the council, the community outreach efforts would begin in earnest in February and result in a draft plan by September. A final plan would be expected in November 2020.

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