Hunter Ridge annexation stirs up old emotions
[ By Kendra Walker ]
After much debate surrounding a past debated land annexation proposal that was rejected, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council approved a 2020 update to the town’s Three Mile Plan.
The Three Mile Plan is a long-range planning opportunity for the town to consider territory they might want to annex in the future. State statute requires each municipality’s plan to be updated annually and nothing substantial has been changed in the update, noted community development director Todd Carroll during the November 4 Town Council meeting.
However, council members expressed concerns with including the Hunter Ridge property in the plan of potential land eligible for annexation, given in 2018 the town council rejected a proposed annexation and development project of that property at 45 Hunter Hill Road. The developer, Jamie Watt, then took the proposed development application to the county, and commissioners approved the project’s sketch plan in January 2020 as recommended by the Gunnison County Planning Commission.
The county resolution included conditions placed on the application by the Planning Commission, including that numerous issues be addressed such as compatibility with neighboring properties, geologic hazards, water and sewer plans, traffic studies, snow storage plans, wildlife considerations and wildland delineations, among others. Watt said this summer that all those issues had been addressed and he was wrapping up the next phase of his application.
“I cannot approve this plan if we include the Hunter Hill annexation,” said council member Steve Morris.
“I don’t see a situation in any form or fashion that I’m going to find that land suitable for development and so I have a problem having it in there,” agreed mayor Janet Farmer.
“I would recommend keeping it in and the reason why is, if we take it out it will only weaken our position if we try to protect the property,” said interim town manager Carlos Velado. “If it’s not in our Three Mile Plan, we’re saying [to the county] we don’t want it, you can have it. But it’s not that we don’t want the property, it’s just that we didn’t want that particular project.”
“Steve, I was definitely leaning in your camp until Carlos spelled it out there,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “Hopefully our newly elected commissioners will hear the sensibility in that and recognize the impacts of not paying attention to our Three Mile Plan.”
“Collectively, does the council want to see that developed?” asked Morris. “To me it seems counter-intuitive to identify that as land we’d like to be developed.”
Kolodziej asked if there was a way to indicate that the particular area in question requires additional scrutiny.
“By statute we have to have a Three Mile Plan,” explained town attorney Kathy Fogo. “It gives the town an opportunity to weigh in and express concerns… You have the right of input but you don’t have the right to determine.”
Velado added, “The Three Mile Plan is a guiding document for the town, not the county. If we take it out we’re basically saying we do not want that property.”
“This Three Mile Plan is not talking about a specific project…” said council member Lauren Koelliker. “So I’m comfortable with approving it because it allows us to say at some point we might want something there… I think we might be overthinking this.”
Ultimately, the council agreed to approve the 2020 Three Mile Plan update.