Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Mt. CB council questions town’s role in North Village partnership

Agrees to one-third financial contribution toward planning diagram

By Kendra Walker

What began as a last-minute agenda addition regarding the North Village quickly turned into a philosophical discussion among Mt. Crested Butte Town Council members during their teleconference meeting on May 19.

Mt. Crested Butte has been asked by the North Village Associates LLC to contribute a third of the $1,000 cost (approximately $333) to create a bubble diagram, or functional diagram, that would illustrate a loose representation of where things can and cannot be developed on the 150-acre North Village property. While the cost is not an issue, the symbolism of the town’s contribution reflecting further funding responsibilities came into question.

Since January, the town of Mt. Crested Butte has been in a “due diligence” phase under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North Village Associates LLC and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) to work collaboratively to determine the vision for the North Village development project. Mt. Crested Butte also owns 17 acres adjacent to the property that could potentially be incorporated in the project. During the MOU phase, the groups have held two public open houses for community feedback on potential amenities for the site, and intend to host at least one more open house depending on public health orders.

With the MOU phase slated to wrap up in May, the town will then decide if it is willing to step into a formal partnership of site design planning and financial contributions moving forward in developing a planned unit development (PUD) application.

Mt. Crested Butte’s potential partnership and investment in the project would theoretically ensure their desired amenities are considered into the development, such as affordable housing, community spaces and open space and trails. As a government agency, Mt. Crested Butte’s partnership would also allow everyone involved access to non-market rates, grants and other funding for the project.

“I think the diagram will help the council understand this project,” said council member Nicholas Kempin, who is also a member of the North Village subcommittee team meeting weekly on the project. “Much of this property is undevelopable because of topography. It would help everyone narrow down what is realistic to put in there… It will help us move those pieces around and show how that might work.”

“Will this diagram help move this forward?” asked council member Lauren Koelliker.

“I do believe it will help move things forward, just showing a potential layout of the site showing which parts of the site can and can’t be built on and a way to prioritize certain amenities,” said Kempin. “It’s unlikely that all of these amenities can go on the site. And then that flows into the financial part and will help us figure out financial modeling for the site… It’s a tool to help everyone involved to understand what can and can’t go on that site.”

“One of the first pieces we do need is this bubble plan so we know if we’re getting our 17 acres-worth,” said mayor Janet Farmer.

While most of council agreed the diagram would be beneficial for planning and public input moving forward, the cost-sharing responsibility kicked in the bigger question of where town sits in the project and some were concerned about the symbolic financial implications.

“There’s an uncertain cost sharing down the road,” said council member Roman Kolodziej, also a member of the North Village subcommittee group. “There’s also an uncertain amount of the project that each MOU partner will be utilizing or advocating for. I wanted to get the ball rolling in rethinking what is our position in this process.”

Kolodziej did also state in a memo to council prior to the meeting that town has had a very positive working relationship with the subcommittee group and is “rowing in the same direction.”

The cost of the bubble chart “seems like such a trivial amount of money in the big picture of what this is going to cost,” said council member Steve Morris. “Those parties have an expectation of our partnership. To me it symbolizes something.”

“Good point,” said Farmer.

Council member Michael Bacani agreed, saying, “By just committing to this, does that mean we are symbolically one-third partnership in this thing? I am not ready to go down that road yet.”

“I think this is just a point in time that we might want to reevaluate,” said Kempin. “I think the North Village is important to the town of Mt. Crested Butte, but there are also a lot of things going on,” he said, referring to the current COVID-19 pandemic. “Is this something we should be devoting time and resources to?”

“The $333 is really not the point because it’s not a large sum of money,” said town manager Joe Fitzpatrick. “My concern is we do not have a budget line item for North Village planning. We’re in the midst of cutting things in the budget, not adding to it. If $333 is the request for today, how much will a request be for tomorrow? I’m very concerned if we go beyond the $333 where we’re going to find the money.”

Council voted 5-2 to contribute one-third of the cost of the bubble diagram, with council members Morris and Bacani voting no.

Council also agreed it would be beneficial to meet with the North Village team to further discuss their potential partnership role in the North Village project, and has scheduled a work session for June 2.

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