“Creating a community core rather than a commercial core”
By Kendra Walker
Following a well-attended public open house earlier this month, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council assessed the public’s feedback and concerns for development of the 150-acre North Village parcel at the February 18 council meeting, and began narrowing down top priorities to consider into the site plan. Affordable housing, figuring out the feasibility of a reservoir, mass transit and parking, trails, park space and community spaces were all categories on the shortlist.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding, Mt. Crested Butte, the North Village Associates and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) have formed a subcommittee to determine potential amenities desired by each partner and the logistics involved with incorporating them into the North Village site plan.
Based on the public input received, the subcommittee asked council for guidance on their priority points to work toward for the next scheduled open house on March 9.
North Village project manager Crockett Farnell stressed the importance of putting together a site plan that allows that town to grow into when it’s ready. A post office annex, for example, he said, “You don’t have to make a decision to say you want a post office right now…but it’s really critical to think about that kind of event horizon, how useful will it be 25 years from now? And then in 25 years you might actually figure out how to pay for the post office.”
Bottom line, “We want general direction of what your priorities are,” said RMBL executive director Ian Billick. “And then the design team can come back and give you two or three options. If we’ve got parking and you need parking for a ball field and connectivity to Gold Link and parking for the trailhead we can figure out how best to serve that.”
“It sounds like we all agree on number one…” said council member Nicholas Kempin. The rest of council, indeed, was in agreement that factoring affordable housing into the site plan is the top priority and moved on to other priority items pretty quickly. Affordable housing has been the top opportunity surrounding the project since the North Village Associates opened up discussion with Town last summer.
Council also agreed that determining the viability of the reservoir was a priority to solve as soon as possible, as the logistics would affect the entirety of the site plan. “Identifying the feasibility helps drive the other conversations,” said council member Roman Kolodziej.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort has reserved water rights for water to be stored in the potential reservoir location, with access rights to tap into the water and use it for snowmaking. This would require the construction of a dam and the most likely entry point would be through the town’s 17-acre parcel adjacent to North Village.
“I think everybody feels it will be really expensive but really great,” said Billick, when asked for his input.
Later that evening, council went into an executive session to discuss the water rights and costs around the potential reservoir, as well as the financials of some of the other proposed amenities. Results from that discussion were not available to the public and council did not discuss further on record.
Mass transit and parking
Another element that council agreed would have a big effect on how the eventual development will fit together is mass transit and parking. The majority of council wants to prioritize mass transit over parking and include walkability as a critical component of the design.
“Congestion and traffic is something that the public is really concerned about,” noted Billick as a key takeaway from the open house.
“A large part of the discussion was making the situation so that people are more inclined to use the bus,” said mayor Janet Farmer.
However, council noted that parking options still need to be factored in for those who can’t easily access the bus system. “Without parking we’re isolating people out of the experience we’re trying to get them to lean into,” said council member Steve Morris.
Trails and park space
“I see the public parking, trail management and transit as kind of a package deal,” said council member Lauren Koelliker, noting the public’s input in maintaining access to the Snodgrass trailhead, adding more trails and recreation opportunities. Council agreed that trails were high on the list, and that factoring them into the transit and parking plans was important.
“But if it’s the four-foot-wide, gravel, Front Range lazy river around the property, that’s not a priority for me,” said Kolodziej.
Park space was also a significant element for both the public and council. “I think that’s a real strong priority from our constituents,” said Farmer.
“And a park that’s actually big enough to have a sports field in it that could also be used for dog park and Frisbee golf,” said council member Dwayne Lehnertz.
Kolodziej emphasized the importance of “creating a community core rather than a commercial core,” and most members echoed the desire to prioritize community spaces that draw in locals over spaces that draw in tourism. The commercial elements, such as a boutique hotel and restaurant space will most likely be driven by the owners, North Village Associates.
“What are everyone’s thoughts on having some sort of a meeting place?” asked Koelliker, referencing the community gathering space in the CB South with a multi-purpose room and kitchen. “That would have a lot of flexibility.” Council members liked the idea of a setting aside building space for a multi-purpose space, which could also eventually be set aside for a new town hall or post office annex options.
“I thought the sentiment was that we didn’t really need a town hall,” said Farmer.
“We need room for the police and as we continue to grow, the Community Development Department needs better room,” said town manager Joe Fitzpatrick. “There’s a difference between really good council chambers and a room that will act as a council chambers. When we have needs for those larger meetings, things really fall apart.” He continued, “There’s opportunity to turn this [current town hall building] into the police department and then build a new town hall.”
“It’s good to separate the police and administrative offices,” agreed community development director Carlos Velado. “And if you had town hall in the North Village it could be a draw…people are coming into the North Village for a meeting, and then they go to the annex to pick up their mail, and then grab coffee right there.”
The subcommittee will now take council’s shortlist of priorities, incorporate North Village Associates’ and RMBL’s priorities, and begin piecing together different options for the North Village puzzle.
“This really gives us some guidance to move forward,” said Billick.
The next public open house is scheduled for March 9 and official site planning would begin in June or July, according to Farnell.