Friday, November 15, 2019

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Living the Resort Town Life: Part IV

by Adam Broderick

Editor’s Note: There is more to living in a resort town than the difficulty of finding a place or the long political discussion over how to provide so-called affordable housing. Reporter Adam Broderick looks at different angles of the issue in this summer series that explores what it’s actually like to live in deed-restricted affordable housing in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

Last week we discussed the future of affordable housing at this end of the Gunnison Valley and explored some of the deed-restricted options that will be available in coming years. This week we revisit the current housing situation and its effect on local business; get to the bottom of rumors about deed restrictions and why they may have been lifted in the past; discuss loan potentials and requirements with a local banking expert; and wrap up this four-part affordable housing series with open minds, open hearts, half-empty wallets, and hopes for a future in paradise as we know it—er, envision it. And if you haven’t quite picked up what I’ve been laying down this past month, catch up with the series by following the link at the end of this story.

As we have seen in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, as well as other mountain resort towns also feeling the housing crunch, deed-restricted affordable housing is enjoyed by some and would be greatly appreciated by many more. As one deed-restricted homeowner said, “I’m able to live in this amazing community and pay all my bills and not struggle to live here like some other people who aren’t as fortunate.”

Blocks 79 and 80, the site of a new affordable housing project in Crested Butte.   photo by Adam Broderick
Blocks 79 and 80, the site of a new affordable housing project in Crested Butte. photo by Adam Broderick

As for the future of affordable housing at this end of the valley, town planner Michael Yerman says that lies in collaboration with the county. And according to Russ Forrest, assistant county manager for community and economic development, unlike many other mountain resort communities, we still have land opportunities in much of Gunnison County. A needs assessment study is being conducted to determine exactly who in the county needs exactly what, and so far the only real conclusion is that the Rural Transportation Authority connects the county and creates infrastructure to strategically place more housing.

In the meantime, some local businesses are doing what they can to help their staff afford housing, and others are beginning to explore the concept.

Local businesses feel the pain

Crested Butte Lodging has gone a step above to offer affordable housing to their employees. Alex Summerfelt works the front desk and says he and his roommate each pay $500 per month, the same as he paid while going to school in Colorado Springs, only now he’s right at the base area of the ski resort.

“Employees are required to put in at least 32 hours per week, whether that be at the office or doing maintenance or housekeeping,” Summerfelt says. Crested Butte Lodging rents various long-term condos on the mountain, which are held on retainer for employees only. Summerfelt says five employees currently use the service.

Jeff Graceffa, co-owner of The Secret Stash, firmly believes the town of Crested Butte has lost something without having beds for the “local, true community” and that the lack of affordable housing has a direct effect on customer service in town as well as on quality of life. “We’re really diluting the local culture here. The locals are just getting swept aside,” he said. “We need quality of life to get people to stay for more than just one season so we don’t get this turnover every year. It gets expensive.”

The Secret Stash employs more staff than most restaurants in town, if not all of them. Manager Taylor Cone says housing is definitely an issue the restaurant has been dealing with lately and he thinks that problems they’ve had with hiring could be directly related to the housing shortage. As for whether The Stash has considered helping their staff better afford local housing, he said that for now they’re just trying to stick it out through summer. “But maybe that’s something we do need to talk about because it doesn’t seem the hiring situation is getting much better.”

Graceffa sees signs that The Stash isn’t the only one to feel the pinch. The Avalanche restaurant at the ski resort’s base area has offered breakfast, lunch and dinner for as long as he can remember, but is now offering only lunch.

“When I first moved to Crested Butte, my friends lived across the street and my employees lived here. There are fewer and fewer locals in the neighborhood these days and it makes this a less appealing place. I love Crested Butte. My whole life is vested in this place. But it’s really lost something to the short-term rental market, and it’s sad to see,” Graceffa said.

Avalanche owner Todd Barnes says his restaurant has not been open for dinners this summer because not enough staff can be hired. He also thinks the hiring problem is directly related to the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“We’re doing lunch from 11 to 4 and Wednesday night dinners when there’s music on the mountain and people up here,” Barnes said. “I left it up to the employees who would be around and who wanted to work, and the majority had days free. So that’s why we’re doing lunch instead of dinners. That way staff is out by 5:30 or 5:45 and can get to another job or go play outside. Also, there are more people up here during the day than at night. On Wednesdays, we all work doubles.”

Barnes said this summer he didn’t have one person come in saying the old phrase, “I just moved here and I’m looking for a job,” whereas normally 15 to 20 people say that and some people get turned away.

 

He let an employee go this summer because other staff didn’t like working with her. “We’re still offering the same quality of service. And I’m still on par for lunches from last year, even up just a little, but I don’t have the staff to be open any longer. I just hope this doesn’t continue through winter. Then what will we do? I hope all the skunk cabbage and century plants foretell a big snow year and that everybody forgets about this. I want to sell people food and booze and have a good time. It’ll be interesting to see what CBMR does. They employ the most people.”

Do deed restrictions last?

There has been some recent talk around town and in social media threads about the lifting of deed restrictions—why it occurs, how often, and how many more will be lifted in the future. This is what officials from different entities say has happened:

Karl Fulmer, executive director of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA), explained that in the event of foreclosure the deed restriction goes away, and most lenders require that. “As long as you’re credit-worthy and the deed restriction has a specific component saying the deed restriction goes away in the event of foreclosure, most lenders will go with that. We have a right of first refusal to save it from foreclosure,” he said.

As a home goes into foreclosure the deed restriction goes away, but the housing authority, the county or a municipality in the county gets first dibs to buy it out of foreclosure and not lose the deed-restricted unit.

Yerman says the long-term goal is to keep housing affordable for the future, so if you deviate from that you lose that affordability factor. He said the town of Crested Butte has never lifted a deed restriction.

In Mt. Crested Butte, Clayton says on a few occasions decisions have been made when affordable units went into foreclosure to not buy the units from the lender and save them. On each occasion, he said, the council looked at the unit and determined if it was a good or bad property to try to acquire and then resell.

“In one case, the unit was refinanced for more than the cap on the property. In another case, the unit was deed restricted for local ownership but there was no cap on pricing. A couple more were units where identical free market units were selling at lower prices than the deed-restricted units.”

Clayton says the town of Mt. Crested Butte has had several individuals come before the Town Council asking that they remove the deed restriction from a unit so that the unit would have a wider audience. In each case, he said, the council decided not to remove the restriction since that would set a precedent that they would remove deed restrictions in the future.

Forrest said there are a variety of deed restrictions within Gunnison County and that it’s not uncommon to lift them. “There are a lot of lessons learned with deed restrictions due to price appreciation, value caps, different definitions of locals… Through a foreclosure it can go to a bank and then that deed restriction can get stripped away. Deed restrictions are complicated and there are really good ones, and really bad ones. If they’re too convoluted, you can’t get a loan on them. It’s just too complicated and a lending institution won’t touch it.”

In 2009, county commissioners lifted deed restrictions on approximately 40 lots in the River Neighborhood of Skyland. When the restrictions were written, there was some language that left questions about whether the restrictions went with the property or ended with the first qualified buyer. There was no cap set on income earned by potential buyers, nor was there a cap on the sale price of the home. The only effect of the deed restriction put in place on those homes was that a full year had to go by before the houses could be resold.

“There was nothing about those deed restrictions that maintained affordability in any way or was in line with the county’s affordable housing goals. It was a local’s deed restriction but not an affordable housing restriction,” county manager Matthew Birnie said. “When those homes went to resell with no price control, they were much more valuable than the original price. They were no longer affordable as commissioners saw them.”

Commissioners did not think the covenants could be revived since they were not upheld from the beginning, which the commissioners believed left homeowners unaware of the details of the deed restrictions on their homes, so the board decided to lift the restrictions and allow homeowners in the River Neighborhood to sell their homes on the free market. Several of those homeowners claimed to be in serious financial danger, and although Jim Starr, then a commissioner and currently the chairman of the Gunnison Valley Housing Foundation, said it wouldn’t have been fair to hold the owners to restrictions they were supposedly not informed of, he was not happy with the decision.

“We didn’t have enough deed-restricted housing then and we still don’t. It was tough to get rid of those,” Starr said.

So yes, some deed restrictions have been lifted in both ends of the valley. Not in the town of Crested Butte or in Mt. Crested Butte, but elsewhere and for different reasons that seem to be justified by the decision makers.

Bank loans for deed-restricted homes

I spoke with Craig Bryant, the executive vice president of Gunnison Savings & Loan, to get a better feel for requesting a loan and purchasing a deed-restricted home. He says loan requirements for deed-restricted home purchases are no different from other home purchases. Having a decent credit history plus the income sources to be in a reasonable financial position to support the home and make the payments should do it.

Bryant says Gunnison Savings & Loan doesn’t put any requirements on their loans (such as requiring income to be earned locally) and that they often use co-borrowers to add financial strength and credit history to help get people qualified. That would be similar to a co-signer on a rental agreement, only co-borrowers are more deeply committed. As for the difficulty getting a loan, Bryant says that varies.

“There are more lenders out there in the “big world” that do not include deed restricted homes as being acceptable collateral. Exactly why that is, I’m not sure, but the services don’t want to deal with the deed restrictions, in the foreclosure process specifically,” Bryant said. “If everyone made their payments there wouldn’t be a problem. We at Gunnison Savings & Loan have always supported that process and have made several loans for deed-restricted homes. The loans have performed as expected, and people have an appreciation for the opportunities they’re given in a deed-restricted marketplace.”

There is not a typical interest rate for deed-restricted home loans. Those will vary, and Bryant said borrowers can get both long-term fixed-rate loans and adjustable rate loans, depending on their preference.

 

For potential buyers, Gunnison Savings & Loan gives free consultations. According to Bryant, “Everybody has to cross the line where they’re both mentally and financially in a position to buy a home because it is a long-term commitment, and we help people determine whether or not they’re ready at this time. If they’re not quite ready, we help them analyze their situation and decide what they need to do to get ready to buy a home. We don’t charge for an inquiry.”

That’s what Gunnison Savings & Loan could do for potential buyers. But GVRHA’s Fulmer says Wells Fargo is also good option. “Wells Fargo certainly lends fairly frequently on deed-restricted units throughout the state,” he said.

Anyone considering a deed-restricted home purchase in the town of Crested Butte should contact Michael Yerman at myerman@crestedbutte-co.gov, since he is compiling a master list of interested buyers for potential housing on the town’s blocks 79 and 80. Eligibility requirements will be available in October or November of this year. Yerman says staff is investigating qualifying buyers who earn up to 160 percent AMI (average median income), which for a single person in 2015 would mean $80,320 per year, but will be discussing the income qualifications with the Town Council in October. Applications are estimated to be accepted beginning January 2016.

So there you have it. The county, the municipalities within, and some local organizations are making efforts to create more affordable housing for the local workforce. Affordable housing is a valley-wide issue that rides the economical tides, and is a challenge facing most mountain communities, not just this one. It requires a community working together to address such an issue, and as we’ve learned throughout this series, this valley is beginning to unite and work toward solutions. Other mountain towns are doing the same, often taking notes from one another’s efforts and experiences—from years past, from current projects and from goals for the future. A future that, as we’ve learned, looks quite grim if the effort does not occur community wide. Thanks for caring enough about the community we live in to stick with me through this four-part series. It’s a cold world out there, and it’s been rather wet lately. Let’s help each other stay warm.

To read this feature series in its entirety, visit crestedbuttenews.com/?s=living+the+resort+town+life

Living the Resort Town Life — Part III —

by Adam Broderick

Editor’s Note: There is more to living in a resort town than the difficulty of finding a place to live or the long political discussion over how to provide so-called affordable housing. Reporter Adam Broderick looks at different angles of the issue in this summer series that explores what it’s actually like to live in deed-restricted affordable housing in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

Last week we spoke with elected officials and housing authorities in other mountain resort towns—Park City, Telluride, Jackson Hole and Aspen—about their efforts to house their local workforce and how they each plan to offer housing for employees in the future. Well before the most recent economic recession, resort towns faced a housing “crisis,” and it’s on the table again. Finding and providing affordable housing is a challenge, particularly where a high quality of life is the area’s main attraction. This week we discuss opportunities for local organizations in this region and future plans to help house the local workforces.

A little background

Homes that used to be listed under $500,000 on the free market are no longer available in this valley.

“Or, the quality of those homes is a bit more questionable,” said Russ Forrest, assistant county manager for community and economic development. Forrest explained that there is a lot of competition for anything that’s available for rent in both the upper and the lower Gunnison Valley. But he thinks the private market in the lower valley hasn’t yet had a chance to respond. Even though affordability is greater in the lower valley, Forrest said there aren’t a lot of built homes available for purchase.

“A report from 2014 showed 25 percent of people renting in Gunnison County spent 50 percent of their income on rent,” Forrest said. “In April 2015, the median price of a 1,500-square-foot home north of Almont was $683,750. That’s the median price. The average price would be more than $1 million. In terms of income to afford that, that’s approximately $130,000—and 9 percent of the population makes that sort of money.”

As for Crested Butte, town planner Michael Yerman said the town is making a huge difference in affordable housing. “We currently have 204 units. We’re going to add 91. If over a quarter of our housing stock in town is deed restricted for affordable housing, we’re doing a pretty good job,” he said. “I see our future is with regional collaboration with the county. This is a countywide issue, not just a Crested Butte issue.”

On the horizon

In Gunnison County, Forrest said there are still opportunities to do something about affordable housing. “Unlike the I-70 corridor or the Roaring Fork corridor, we still have land opportunities. Through the One Valley Prosperity Project [OVPP] we see that as a tool and a forum to deal with regional issues like this. We don’t know all the issues yet, but by connecting mass transportation, like the Rural Transportation Authority connecting Crested Butte South where a lot of employees are, and with the connection it has to Gunnison, you have the infrastructure to be strategic about where to put housing,” he said.

According to Forrest, from a regional standpoint, the idea is to connect transportation to housing opportunities and create the maximum bang for the buck. “A needs assessment study [a near-future project of the GVRHA] could tell us how many employees are out there and need housing,” he said. “There are land opportunities in and around Gunnison. There are approximately one million square feet between Camp 4 Coffee and Tully’s in Crested Butte South that have been approved in the context of mixed-use development. So there are land opportunities, but the next step is figuring out how to do it.

“It’s a tough problem to deal with. I’ve always said I had a full head of hair before I dealt with housing problems in the mountains. You don’t change it overnight,” Forrest said.

Yerman said the new deed-restricted rental development in the town of Crested Butte called Anthracite Place, which will be located at Sixth and Belleview and offer 30 deed-restricted units, is anticipated to be done next July. There is a five-year build out expected for Blocks 79, 80 and 76. The town broke ground on Blocks 79 and 80 on July 8. Roads and utilities are being installed and affordable housing options should be first available for the local workforce in the spring of 2016. Block 76 probably won’t begin for about five years, due to budgeting constraints.

“Right now our biggest goal is to have anything we do with affordable housing be successful for the applicant or the person living in it,” Yerman said. “Too often we overregulate or devise things that look good on paper, but when it comes down to the person actually building and paying off the loan, they could potentially be in a situation that is not successful for them. So we work to create—whether it be through ownership or rentals, we’ll get there.”

The town of Mt. Crested Butte also wants to maximize the availability of affordable housing, but David Clayton, mayor of Mt. Crested Butte, said there is limited vacant land for new affordable housing projects. He also said Mt. Crested Butte does not have a sustainable mechanism to generate funds the town can spend on housing.

“We have quite a few lots available in the Homestead project in Prospect and the town has architectural plans developed for the next building that will be constructed but we do not have sufficient funds in the affordable housing fund to start the next building,” Clayton said. “Income to that fund comes from affordable housing fees charged to new commercial projects, which have not happened lately in Mt. Crested Butte.”

Erica Mueller, director of innovations and relations at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), told the News that the Homestead project at Prospect was put together in conjunction with CBMR and the town of Mt. Crested Butte.

“CBMR constructed all of the basic infrastructure, roads and utilities, etc. Also, as per the annexation agreement, we deeded 16 lots to the town and we own/owned 25 lots. We built and sold six units in 2007/2008 and then we all know what happened with the economy, so we haven’t built anything up there since then. Currently both CBMR and the town have lots that can be built on as part of this affordable housing neighborhood,” Mueller said.

Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick provided some facts concerning workforce housing in Mt. Crested Butte:

—There are 63 rental or owner-occupied units with some type of deed restriction.

—A triplex has been designed in the Homestead (Prospect) subdivision and is ready for construction; however, the funds are not available to construct the building.

Local officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking last week in Crested Butte’s latest affordable housing project, installing infrastructure on blocks 79 and 80.   photo by Lydia Stern
Local officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking last week in Crested Butte’s latest affordable housing project, installing infrastructure on blocks 79 and 80. photo by Lydia Stern

—The Timbers Apartments (old Marcellina Apartments) are currently going through a major remodel; seven of the units are deed restricted and will once again be available for occupancy when the building remodel is complete.

—There are multiple “free market” multiple family lots in Mt. Crested Butte that could be used for the construction of “workforce housing;” however, considering today’s market and the cost of construction, the economics for rental housing have not been attractive to developers.

—The town owns only one other piece of vacant land, Inn Site II, and it currently serves as a parking lot. [Locals know it as the “Rasta Lot,” at the corner of Gothic and Treasury.]

According to Clayton, “It takes so much money to build a unit, over a million dollars for a triplex to be built. We really lose about 50 percent of construction costs.”

Clayton believes the town of Mt. Crested Butte would be willing to look at creative ways to build new units, but they don’t even have a good statistical handle on what the true need is. “That’s one of the things that the county, the GVRHA and the municipalities are looking at—updating our housing studies,” he said.

Local businesses chipping in

Some of the larger businesses in the area have been providing affordable employee housing for years, and some are just starting to make moves in that direction. CBMR, Irwin/Eleven, and RMBL offered some insight.

At CBMR, Mueller explained that the resort manages units they rent to employees in the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Crested Mountain Condos and The Plaza. For winter housing, they work with some properties in Almont and Gunnison to house some international employees and other employees. As for the future, Mueller said CBMR is exploring options for more development but nothing is set in stone.

“Anything we would or could do is at least a few years out, as it would require a lot of financing, permitting, planning, constructing, etc.,” Mueller said.

At Irwin, Jake Jones, director of North American operations for Irwin Guides, said Irwin/Eleven has four suites located within the town of Crested Butte. Two of the suites come with employment and two of the suites rent to employees at 50 percent below market rate. All the suites are furnished and include utilities.

“We often use housing as an incentive for our internship program or for traveling staff that may be working in Crested Butte from overseas or out of state,” Jones said.

At the moment there are no future plans for more employee housing at Irwin/Eleven.

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory isn’t immune to the challenge either. “Housing is a real problem for us. RMBL’s future opportunities are currently limited by the ability of scientists and permanent employees to find offsite housing,” said RMBL executive director Ian Billick.

Approximately 11 full-time employees live on-site for free. Billick said the staff gets meals and RMBL handles utilities. “RMBL will have approximately 70 people on payroll this summer, about half of whom are working full-time or close to full-time. There is also growing demand by scientists to use RMBL’s services. The ability to find housing offsite has been important to accommodating this demand. This summer has been a real wake-up call, however. We’re actively exploring options and looking for other employers who might want to collaborate with us,” Billick said.

So far, the consensus is that life ain’t easy for the majority of residents in mountain resort towns. Tune in next week for Part IV of Living the Resort Town Life. We’ll dive into the history and future of deed restrictions in this region and hear what other local stakeholders and decision makers think of the direction we’re headed with housing for locals.

Living the Resort Town Life — Part II

by Adam Broderick

Editor’s Note: There is more to living in a resort town than the difficulty of finding a place or the long political discussion over how to provide so-called affordable housing. Reporter Adam Broderick looks at different angles of the issue in this summer series that explores deed-restricted affordable housing in resort towns like Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

Last week we heard stories from real Buttians about what it’s like to live in affordable housing in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. This week we speak with government officials and housing authorities in other resort towns, exploring what has been done to address similar local housing issues.

But first, what does “deed-restricted” mean? Deed restrictions determine who can and cannot purchase a property. The goal of deed restrictions in regard to affordable housing is to keep homes affordable for years to come by restricting the amount of value one can add to a home with improvements or remodels. When deed restrictions are upheld and work as planned, the housing market may change drastically from the time of purchase but the property value remains the same, or very close to it.

Criteria for ownership in deed-restricted homes differs from one affordable housing project to the next, but for the most part, to qualify one must make a minimum income (to guarantee payments will be made on time) but not too much, and usually most income must be earned locally. Also, one must reside locally for a certain number of years. When a deed-restricted homeowner decides to sell, only a small percentage can be made for profit.

Snow Creek Cottages in Park City.  photo by Elliott Workgroup
Snow Creek Cottages in Park City. photo by Elliott Workgroup

Crested Butte town planner Michael Yerman explained that the typical deed restriction is for 3 percent of the purchase price, or the consumer price index, whichever is less. “The long-term goal is to keep housing units affordable for the future, so if you deviate from that you lose that affordability,” Yerman says. “What makes these properties attractive to homeowners is that the land is dealt at a much lower rate, making the build more affordable. In exchange for that, you agree to a three percent increase.”

For example, a home that cost $100,000 will always be worth $100,000, plus 3 percent per year, or $3,000 per year. Thirty years down the line that $100,000 home would be worth no more than $190,000. However, improvements which increase energy efficiency or create additional liveable space could be included in the home’s future price.

Other covenants imposed by homeowner associations often limit developments, like determining which styles of homes can be built and which materials can be used to construct them; proximity to the street or neighboring properties; size of buildings and additional structures; pet allowances; lot storage prohibitions; road maintenance and landscaping guidelines; and even paint colors or fencing materials.

In discussions with other communities about how their efforts to implement affordable housing for locals, it has become clear that Crested Butte is not alone in dealing with the so-called “housing crisis.” I spoke with housing authorities and elected officials in ski towns around the west—Telluride, Aspen, Jackson and Park City—and all face similar housing issues.

Aspen, Colorado

“It’s not just an Aspen problem. It’s a Roaring Fork Valley-wide problem,” says Mike Krosdrosky, executive director of the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority (APCHA). He says Aspen has faced a housing crisis as long as he can remember; the difference is that now there is more affordable housing.

Aspen has 2,166 units currently for sale or rent with deed restrictions of some sort, and another 765 affordable homes and rentals in the surrounding Pitkin County. Somewhere around 45 percent of the total workforce in Pitkin County lives in affordable housing built by the city. Twenty-one percent of those residents are at the low-to-moderate income level and 79 percent are at the moderate-to-high income level.

“The goal from the early 1990s was to house about 60 percent [of the local workforce], so we’re below that stated goal, if that’s any indication of the ongoing way of life here,” Krosdrosky says.

In 1990, the city of Aspen passed a real estate transfer tax for employee housing and Krosdrosky says that has brought in a lot of funds to build affordable housing. “It’s a 1 percent transfer tax on the purchase price of any residential real estate over $100,000 that changes hands. A percentage of that goes into a fund for housing development. Last year the city collected $8 million to $8.5 million and we’re on track to exceed that this year.”

Cindy Christensen, head of operations for APCHA, has been with the city of Aspen for 25 years and has worked on local housing issues since 1992. She says the city went to the voters to extend the 1 percent transfer tax. “The last time we asked the voters for an extension of 40 years, it was approved no problem.”

Part of the desire is to keep workers in the community. “We have workers commuting from as far as Rifle and Eagle,” Krosdrosky says. “It’s cheaper to live in those towns than in Aspen. Rifle is probably an hour and a half from Aspen. Our bus service goes that far, but during the winter you’re adding probably an hour on that.”

This summer, the APCHA is collecting data to inform an update of its affordable housing guidelines. On July 1, the organization sent a survey to all residents and is working to distribute it to 750 businesses. “The study will help us update our affordable housing guidelines by allowing us to analyze affordability, qualifications for renting or purchasing, and other best practices for the mountain community,” Krosdrosky says. “We feel we’re overdue for getting our guidelines updated so we’re collecting new data to analyze. Once we start aggregating data we can start having conversations around these issues and make decisions based on facts instead of speculations.”

Park City, Utah

According to Outside Magazine’s “Best Towns Ever” (September 2013), “The trick to being a Park City local is finding a way to stay. There’s a tricky balance between attracting wealthy tourists and second home owners without expelling the middle class.”

There are more than 325 units of deed-restricted, low-income rental housing in Park City, one of only two communities in Utah that have an affordable housing resolution. Park City’s communications and public affairs manager Phyllis Robinson says the ratio of primary to secondary homes today is 31 percent primary residents and 69 percent second homes/part-time residents. That number has fluctuated over time but it generally hovers around 35 percent primary and 65 percent second homes/part-time residents.

Robinson says the city’s population is getting older and the community is at risk of losing economic and age diversity in the community. In a presentation to the Park City Board of Realtors last June, Robinson said the city saw a decrease in younger households and an increase in older households between 2000 and 2010. The surrounding county has become more attractive to younger households as well because of the diversity and greater affordability of housing.

To fund affordable housing, Park City has a property tax code that incentivizes renting long term versus nightly rentals or leaving a home empty. Robinson says that primary residents (long-term rentals) are taxed at 55 percent of their assessed value versus 100 percent for second homes. In 2013, Park City received the Robert Larson Public Policy Award for its ongoing commitment to affordable housing.

The city has a goal of 10 percent of its housing stock being some form of deed-restricted affordable housing. By 2020, it aims to reach or exceed 7 percent, and as of this year is at 5.5 percent. The city is looking at older condo properties to see if there is a level of redevelopment they can bring to the units, and has the funding available if such opportunities become available.

Past projects included the preservation of the Holiday Village Apartments in 2001 under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) where each of the 80 units was awarded rental assistance, so no household pays more than 30 percent of its annual income for rent. A similar project was done a few years later, but in 2005 the City Council shifted its focus to homeownership projects, including a 13-unit project in 2008 and a seasonal housing project for homeowners.

“We are currently developing another small affordable homeownership project on city-owned land, and evaluating city parking lots for further housing development opportunities,” says Robinson.

The real challenge for Park City, as worded in last month’s Board of Realtors presentation, is this: “Keeping and attracting moderate and middle-income residents is crucial if we want to remain a real life town and have a light carbon footprint.”

 

Telluride, Colorado

“The term Draconian has been used to describe us. We are supplying housing for workers. Once you make that decision, you know what you are building and who you are building for,” says Telluride mayor Stu Fraser. “People cry when they sign the contract, and it’s from joy. We have a really overjoyed group of people that have housing, and a frustrated group that want it. They’re not cookie-cutter places. They win architectural awards. It’s the most gratifying part of my job, building housing and building it the best that we can.”

A recent survey reported that 60 percent of workers in San Miguel County want to live in Telluride, and 30 percent of the local workforce lives in Ridgway or neighboring towns and commutes to work in Telluride.

Approximately 56 percent of all homes in the town of Telluride are owner-occupied. Fraser says the goal is 60 percent, so they’re close, but it still takes time. In all, 310 homes in Telluride are deed-restricted. The town spent $25 million on 100 deed-restricted affordable homes between 2004 and 2012.

“We’re not in a rush to solve the problem in three years,” Fraser says. “And we cannot solve the problem by ourselves. Myself and the mayor of Mountain Village met with all the HR directors from all the large businesses. We said, ‘You’re telling us you don’t have places for your employees? You have a responsibility, too. Government is not set up to be a sole provider of deed-restricted housing. Everybody needs to participate.’”

Fraser and his colleagues even talked to Telluride Ski and Golf Club and they’re now looking at purchasing properties for employee housing. Lance McDonald, program director for the town of Telluride, compares the idea to the old mining model. “When the mines came in, they built housing for their employees. Then if you lost your job, you lost your place to live.”

Telluride has a half-cent asset sales tax that generates the affordable housing fund. There’s also a sliding scale fee that contributes to the fund, which is based on square footage of new houses being built in town. McDonald says larger homes pay a larger fee percentage-wise than smaller homes. But the half-cent asset sales tax is where the real money comes from and generates roughly $600,000 per year.

Of the 310 deed-restricted units in Telluride, 31 are employee dwelling units, which they call their accessory dwellings, and Fraser says the town had to do a lot to make sure homeowners were compliant with town regulations.

“We sent letters out, then followed up with phone calls to property owners to find out if they were renting. It took a while, but we got responses from virtually everybody. We had to stay on their tails to get the information back to us, but now they report annually,” says Fraser.

According McDonald, “We definitely have affordability issues, and they get hotter and colder with the economy. As our region continues to build out, it becomes exponentially harder to create meaningful, affordable housing in these resort communities. A lot of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.”

Jackson, Wyoming

The housing crisis has really never gone away in Jackson. “It continually gets worse; however, it does take on different characteristics,” says Stacy Stoker, executive director of the Teton County Housing Authority. “During the economic crisis, we didn’t have as many people living out of cars, and the vacancy rate in rentals was higher. Now it’s almost zero.”

Of the 13,273 housing units in Jackson in 2013, 9,295 (70 percent) remained occupied; 4,139 were occupied by renters, 5,516 by owners. Roughly 36 percent of households have an income less than $50,000 and approximately 38 to 40 percent of the local workforce lives in Driggs, Idaho or another neighboring town and commutes to work in Jackson.

Elected officials in the town of Jackson have a goal of housing 65 percent of the local workforce. Stoker says Jackson was at the 65 percent mark a couple of years ago, but has slipped to about 62 percent and is losing ground pretty quickly right now. There is a Housing Action Plan in the works that should be complete within the next couple of months.

Stoker says there is no dedicated funding source for housing in the community besides developer-in-lieu fees, nor are prospective developers lined up for such endeavors, but this may come through the Housing Action Plan. There are fees that new development pays when they don’t provide housing units in the development, and those fees go toward affordable housing.

Last summer the town of Jackson passed an ordinance allowing people to sleep overnight in public parks and parking lots.

“The idea was for someone who had an RV or vehicle to be able to pull over and sleep overnight,” Stoker says. “This had not been allowed in the past. There was consideration of setting up some kind of man camp for this summer, but I believe that idea was squashed due to issues that could arise from the density of campers all in one place.”

Stoker says the biggest problem in Jackson is the shortage of rentals. “Many people have turned to using their single-family homes and condos as short-term rentals, even when they are not allowed, and this reduces the number of units available for the workforce. Last summer, we had 12 percent of the workforce living out of their cars,” she says. “A decade ago, it was difficult to find rentals, but not like it is currently.”

Stay tuned for Part III of Living the Resort Town Life, in which we’ll speak with local officials and discuss the area’s future plans to develop more deed-restricted affordable
housing.

Living the Resort Town Life: Part I

By Adam Broderick

Editor’s note: There is more to living in a resort town than the difficulty of finding a place to live or the long political discussion over how to provide so-called affordable housing. Reporter Adam Broderick will look at different angles of the issue in this summer series that explores what it’s actually like to live in deed-restricted affordable housing in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

This week we take a glimpse into current residents’ living situations, exploring different deed-restricted neighborhoods and their advantages and disadvantages as residents view them.
A handful of deed-restricted affordable homeowners from the Upper Gunnison Valley explained what they thought about their living situations. From Red Lady Estates to Paradise Park and Poverty Gulch on either side of town to Prospect on the back side of the mountain, this is what people really think of their affordable homes.

Paradise Park
Nicky O’Connor lives with her dog and cat in the Paradise Park community, which is located on the block between Gothic and Teocalli and 8th and 9th streets. She moved into her one-bed, 1.5-bath condo with a garage in June 2007 after building the house through the winter months as part of the Mutual Self-Help Build, a program offered by the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority.

ESTATE ESCAPE: Gibbons’ “little oasis” in the Red Lady Estates catches some morning light.    photo by Adam Broderick
ESTATE ESCAPE: Gibbons’ “little oasis” in the Red Lady Estates catches some morning light.
photo by Adam Broderick

Four units were built simultaneously—two buildings, two townhomes in each—and all homeowners pitched in to help each other build and save money up front.
In lieu of a down payment they were required to work a minimum of 30 hours per week, but many worked more than that. O’Connor says homeowners collectively did about 60 percent of the builds and contracted out the plumbing, drywall, roofing and the initial concrete pour. They did all other flooring aspects themselves, including grouting, staining and sealing.
“We would do one step on someone’s house all the way through, then repeat that step in the other homes. When it came to the inside—personal stuff like paint choices and interior designs [O’Connor was quick to engrave a Celtic knot on the floor]—we would do our own,” she says. “We worked over the span of about nine months for at least 30 hours per week. Some weeks we put more time in. We were allowed to get help from friends or family, but we personally had to put at least 15 of those hours in. I ended up having to quit my second job to allow the time for the build.”
With rental rates as high as they have been lately, O’Connor says she couldn’t even get a room in town for the price she pays for her home. And when she walks out her front door, Mt. Crested Butte is the first thing she sees. In fact, she can see a peak out of each of her 16 windows. She lives next to the rec path, and says her neighbors are awesome. “We all help each other out,” she says. “And I love my little yard. It’s not fenced in but could be if I wanted.
“Another awesome thing about the program was how much I learned building the house from the ground up,” she continued. “I was able to add thoughts to the design of the original floor plan and change it up a bit. And I now have bragging rights because I can say I built my own house.”
As for downsides, O’Connor says there aren’t many other than resale value. “There is a cap on how much you can make on resale. My subsidized loan is through the United States Department of Agriculture. Even with the annual appreciation, if I were to sell I wouldn’t make much off of it.”

Red Lady Estates
Jack Gibbons lives in what he calls the best lot in town. His home is in the Red Lady Estates, the small mobile home community on Red Lady Avenue next to Clark’s Market, and he says he’s made it into something pretty incredible. Once you step inside, all the remodeling he’s done makes you forget you’re even in a mobile home. Even from the outside, it’s still difficult to tell.
Gibbons owns a 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with one roommate, his cat and his roommate’s dog. He was lucky to find his home twenty years ago, when he says the town offered lots to people who were lucky enough to have their names drawn from a hat.
“I was number ten out of 50 people,” Gibbons says. “They gave you the lot and you went and bought a trailer. There were lots of hurdles and it was hard to come up with the down payment, but I don’t think it was atypical of what anyone else goes through. The home was relatively cheap. I’m so lucky to have been here at the perfect time, to have won the lottery that put me here.”
He moved into his new home, part of the first affordable housing project Crested Butte had done, in 1995. “At the beginning there was a lot of controversy, but I think we’ve proved everyone wrong,” he says. “People said they didn’t want a trailer park in town and called it degrading and white trash. I hate the term ‘trailer park.’ We try to keep the place clean and tidy as possible. I think it’s the best lot in town.”
Gibbons says the only downsides to his deed-restricted home are that he will never have a garage, just a porch over his front steps, and since he’s tucked up against The Bench he only gets a few hours of sun per day in the winter. But in summer the whole yard is a lush garden with water features and stone sitting areas, and the yard borders a hillside covered in thick foliage. “It’s a little oasis back there,” he says.

Poverty Gulch
Jake Jones and his family live in a two-bedroom, one-bath, 800+ square foot duplex in the Poverty Gulch community, which is on the north side of Butte Avenue between 7th and 8th streets. He says his wife, Sarah, holds the title as the first and only owner and if he remembers correctly, she won a lottery and was able to purchase their home from the town of Crested Butte in 1999 or 2000. Jones says the property was probably at one point considered unusable land, but was turned into affordable housing.
The Jones family most appreciates the price, convenient in-town location and great views from their home. They feel fortunate to live in town, especially since many of his and Sarah’s friends have moved their families out of town.
“We feel very fortunate to go non-motorized so often, leaving the car parked and riding bikes to work or a free bus to the ski area. Living in town, that’s really something,” Jones says. “Another upside is these units are owner-occupied. If we lived anywhere else in town, we’d probably be surrounded by renters. Living with other people who own their units is a good thing.”
In that corner of town, due to the density of affordable units, there are many long-term residents and families. According to Jones, “There is a strong sense of community, more so than in other parts of town where you find mostly renters or mostly dark neighborhoods. Also, our kid can ride his bike to school easily. His friends are all throughout the neighborhood. A lot of these families would not live in town if it weren’t for these units.”
Jones says about 15 years ago the town built the homes, then sold them. “People had to qualify, then get their name on a list, then have their name drawn. My wife had to meet all the standards of not making too much money, all the money she did make had to be locally earned and she had to have lived in the valley a certain number of years.”
Other than actual quality of life, Jones says there is no benefit to improving the property. Projects that require building permits—decks, windows, etc.—could add equity to the home, but not for many years. “A tiny 50-square foot addition could add $30,000, but you may not see that for 30 years,” he says. “[Improvement projects] may increase your quality of life, but you couldn’t recoup that as an investment.
“At the end of the day, these units do not get people out of affordable housing into the free market,” he continued. “The free market is far surpassed. But it is an affordable way for locals to experience homeownership.”

Prospect
Mark Fontenot says the town of Mt. Crested Butte was very generous and let him rent his one-bed, 1.5-bath in Prospect for a year to see if he liked the location. He bought it a year later. The Prospect development is on the backside of CBMR near the Prospect chairlift. Fontenot says he got into his home at just the right time and he is proud to have his own little slice of heaven for the rest of his life.
As far as restrictions go, Fontenot says he thinks the town hit a home run with the Prospect development. “Our dues are very low compared to other affordable housing communities around here and as far as wanting to do anything I can, as long as I go through the right steps and properly approach the board [of directors], I have had zero problems doing anything I’ve wanted to do. I can plant as much as I want and make my house look as beautiful as I want as long as I ask permission to do it. If I want to put granite countertops in my home, I can, and that adds to the value of my home. Any improvements I put into it I can get back.”
Fontenot explained that he could sell his house for the original cost plus around 3 to 3.5 percent (inflation, he called it) per year plus the cost of improvements he makes to it. “Whatever the house was purchased for, the next year it will increase 3 to 3.5 percent plus any improvements I do. If the granite counter tops cost $1,000 I can sell my house for cost plus 3.5 percent per year plus the $1,000 for the counter tops. You just keep your receipt.”
“I really hope we can build more of these opportunities for other people so they can have the same satisfaction I have,” he continued. “This town needs it. My home is affordable. I’m able to live in this amazing community and pay all my bills and not struggle to live here like some other people who aren’t as fortunate. I look forward to the day that Prospect is further built out so that I have more friends as neighbors.”

As you can see, these real life stories are examples of how affordable housing works. These communities are full of families, the local workforce—real Buttians. Stay tuned for the next installment of Living the Resort Town Life. We’ll take a look inside more affordable housing developments around town and explore what has been done in other resort towns to address local housing issues.

Reactions to “Poor Little Rich Town”

So now the Crested Butte mid-timers who came here in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s for the small-town mountain village and ski-town vibe know what the Crested Butte old-timers felt like when they moved here. Was that a big change or a normal evolution?

To say last week’s “Poor Little Rich Town” story (great title, by the way) struck a deep chord with some people would be an understatement, as the online views climb toward the 10,000 mark. Locals who’ve been here a bit are sad to see more expensive gentrification in Crested Butte while some of their friends are leaving. Some second homeowners feel like their financial security is being used against them when all they want is to be able to participate and contribute to a cool mountain community. The local landlords feel targeted when businesspeople who are struggling generally used the term “rent” to collectively describe the increasing costs and difficulty of making a living in the valley. While I wish I could directly relate to the wealth conundrum, I empathize with all of the feelings expressed. That is the purpose of Dawne’s series—to put in words some of the angst people are feeling as the place they know changes.

Let’s start with the landlord anxiety. In my 30-plus years here I have been a tenant of both commercial and residential property and, on a relatively small scale, a landlord of both commercial and residential property. It is far easier being the one paying rent as opposed to a mortgage, but the landlord always feels like a target is on his or her back. 

Frankly, being a landlord means you’ve taken a risk with the hope of making money during and at the end of the deal. Given property value direction these days, it might be hard to remember that prices don’t always go up. That’s where the risk comes in. Maybe I’m the only one in Crested Butte to have ever taken a bath and lost my ass on commercial property in town, but I doubt it. When people insinuate that landlords are simply being greedy for charging more rent today than 10 years ago, they are wrong. Landlords deal with the clogged toilet, the snow on the sidewalk and the light that won’t work at midnight. Landlords have to pay the mortgage and the property taxes even if their tenant is late with their rent or sends an email saying they do not intend to pay the rent at all because they don’t have the money. Every landlord wants a buffer in the bank for such cases because those cases are not that rare. On the residential side, there are good renters and bad renters. So when a landlord asks for or writes in the lease the need to cover expenses like insurance, maintenance and taxes, I get it. It is simplistic to point the finger at the landlords, who are struggling like the business owners who rent space. 

Which ties into the next element. The mid-timers got here in a time when life was more mellow and it was a lot cheaper to set up shop or just live here. Residential rents in mining shacks with little insulation were maybe $200 per month instead of the current $1,600 per month for renovated, warm condos and homes. Because there are so few old mining shacks that can be turned into ski bum rentals these days, they are being replaced by deed-restricted affordable housing. The problem now is that for those ski bums who ultimately choose to make this their home, there are fewer options to move up on the housing ladder. Relatively cheap fixer-uppers, old condos at the ski area, cheap land in Crested Butte South or an affordable free-market house in Gunnison used to be plentiful. Now, those lower rungs of the ladder are disappearing or already missing.

Business rents in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were easy and cheap. You could start a business in town on hope and a line of credit that the local banker would outline on a bar napkin over a beer. And while starting any business depends more on a dream and the ability to work hard, the costs for everyone these days in Crested Butte make it more difficult. Local owners remark all the time about the high fees charged by town for building and running a business, on top of the increasing property taxes and a limited tourist period to make bank. This is no longer the place you can zip in and set up an inexpensive mushroom smoothie shop and make a buck. 

The positive thing is that some existing businesses are adapting to the situation and finding new outlets to help their businesses stay viable and young people are still exploring ways to work for themselves here. That is exciting and keeps the place dynamic.

As for the wealthy second homeowners and newcomers to town, most were attracted by the ambiance that comes from Crested Butte. They may have never tried a mushroom smoothie or gotten a loan from the banker on a bar napkin but they enjoy the sort of outlaw feel that remains under the radar in Crested Butte. Those mid-timers who arrived in the ‘70s and ‘80s loved that the roads weren’t paved, lift tickets were $30, dogs roamed free and there was no high school, movie theater or, frankly, many rules. The newbies these days instead went into the “real world” and made their money and can now afford to live in the place they dreamed about. 

Or they have jobs that allow them to live here but work online. They don’t need to wait tables. But they want this small-town lifestyle with resort amenities. They appreciate the outdoors and the small town. They like riding their bikes to the post office and appreciate the education their kids receive. 

For me, the reasons one comes to this place are the most important, not the bottom line of a bank statement. Now of course, like all of us, the new arrivals might want to understand that it’s not always what they expected, so trying to change the place to be like the place they left will always cause friction. It can snow a lot here and it’s sometimes hard being in a small mountain town. It’s difficult to get places and having a cow poop on the trail is not bad but worth its weight in gold because it means the ranching industry is alive and well in the valley. Maybe people should live here a few years before getting too enthusiastic about how it can be better.

Which ties into another rough element: Watching friends and long-time businesspeople who make up the fabric of the community leave. When Lian or Rich or Chris close up shop and leave the valley, that means we don’t see familiar faces on the softball diamond, at the coffee shop or on an Elk Avenue bench. That leaves an empty feeling in the overall community and it exemplifies the change we all feel when Lian from Rendezvous is replaced by Stacy from Boulder. 

This series is intended to lay out there what is happening, as opposed to simply ignoring it or just complaining about the angst some are feeling. Looking at social media this week the story is certainly an avenue to talk about ways people are dealing. The changes are not always easy and for some the line has long been crossed. But almost without exception when people move away from here, so many wish they hadn’t because the relationships formed and the connections made in this small town do not come easily in other places, even other small resort communities. 

Everyone has their version of the good ol’ days and there are, I’m sure, other good places hidden out there. But I can think of no better place to live and raise a family. It’s a place where the pissed off landlords can easily find me to raise their issues, where you can go into an establishment and share a drink and stories with friends and acquaintances 12 months a year. New faces on Elk mean new ideas and new opportunities to meet new people. Crested Butte is still a place where you can walk out the door to incredible beauty and be in the midst of it within minutes. It is still a place where neighbors care about one another and a walk to get your mail can take an hour as you catch up with friends. Yeah, it is more expensive now than it was then, it is bigger than yesterday and there is too much Crestitude by the newer “locals,” but it is a pretty wonderful place. 

The early mid-timers changed CB but have tried to honor the mining and ranching culture of the community as they pushed for resort amenities. Now many of them are feeling pushed out. Change is always inevitable and we are in a big wave—but how we evolve is ultimately up to us. 

—Mark Reaman

Poor Little Rich Town, Part 2

It Ain’t Easy (being rich and pretty)

By Dawne Belloise

Throughout Crested Butte’s long history and metamorphosis from a mining town to a ski resort, businesses have always come and gone. But recently there seems to be a rash of closings and a migration of residents to more affordable towns where home ownership is realistically attainable. Many feel it’s not the locals who are going to have a say in this town’s future and development—it’s the big money. 

Crested Butte cannot be a town of tourism-based economics if the shops, galleries and restaurants that contribute to its attractive character—and are major players in bringing in tourists and return visitors—cannot financially survive. 

The two main reasons for local business closings, cited by affected businesses, are the escalating cost of space and lack of a consistent workforce. It boils down to the town’s declining residential housing for lower-income workers and commercial building stock being driven up in value by buyers willing to pay the high sales price. Investors and wanna-be-Buttians who buy property at escalating market prices have driven up the accompanying property taxes while depleting the housing stock for locals who make a living in the tourist industry. This not only increases taxes; it affects costs across the board, from new construction to roof shovelers to the price of a meal at your favorite local eatery and, more notably, raises the total cost of a lease. 

Landlords say they are in a tough spot and find they must increase rates, both commercially and residentially, to keep up with the ever-increasing property taxes and other expenses associated with owning property in a resort town. 

The difficulties of being a landlord are straightforward and most say they try to work with their tenants. Every landlord dreads empty spaces. But they’re often caught in the riptide of higher expenses, treading the rising property taxes, dealing with expensive maintenance and repairs, and sometimes handling tenants who can’t keep up with their rent on time or at all, leaving the landlord to fully cover all their overhead.

Jos Rijks, who with his wife, Teresa, has owned Rijks Family Gallery since 1993, feels landlords are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, especially with rising taxes. “People feel that art framing is already expensive—are you going to keep increasing your prices because the taxes are escalating?,” Rijks wonders. 

The Rijks have rented out a section of their store to Valerie Jaquith, who has a thriving soap and body product business, Colorado Real Soap Company, but couldn’t find an affordable commercial retail space in town. The Rijks stepped up in a win-win situation for both businesses, but Jos also warns, “If it comes to the point where we feel our business is not financially worthwhile, why keep working? We’ll simply close the business.”

Because of state laws, commercial property is hit with a sledgehammer when it comes to property taxes. The Gallagher amendment essentially dictates that any tax increase will hit commercial property roughly four times higher than residential. 

On the residential side of things, the county bases property valuations for taxes on property sales; in other words, market value, and as most people understand, market value is high right now. 

In Crested Butte, the average single-family home to date this year sold for well over a million dollars, compared to the 2013 average price of $913,000, and the 2014 price of $1 million. In 2015, prices of single-family houses in town dropped to an average $803,400, while they rose from $1.2 million in 2016, to $1.35 million in 2017, and to $1.3 million in 2018. Two months ago, a single-family residence on Ninth Street sold for $4.46 million, the highest price ever paid in town for a single-family residence. The next county property reassessment, which happens every two years, will reflect these current sales and taxes will most likely continue to rise. 

It is obvious that a middle class working family will not easily be able to afford a free-market house in town. Even deed-restricted affordable units being sold in Crested Butte that might be appropriate for a young growing family can be expensive, costing between about $200,000 to more than $400,000, depending on size and incomes. 

The world, weather and parking all play a role

Businesses now have had to reinvent themselves, expand product or share space to stay afloat. “There’s constant competition from the internet,” says Kim Raines, owner of Mountain Colors, a paint, lighting, supplies, sundries and hardware fixture store. “If I just sold paint I probably wouldn’t be in business. I need multiple things.” 

Raines’ advice to other businesses: “Make sure that 100 percent of your sales aren’t in the valley. I make sure that whatever I’m selling can be sold to other places as well.” Ninety percent of her product is sold out of her store but she also ships her products to second homeowners’ primary homes in other states, notably Texas. Instead of ordering off Amazon, Raines’ clientele have a good business relationship with her, trust her consultation and prefer working with a human who will personalize their experience. 

“It’s not easy to own a business anywhere, but everything seems to be harder in Crested Butte,” Raines says. “Just the day-to-day things, like going to work, are exacerbated by the harshness of winter—tunneling out of your house through deep snow, shoveling your car, blizzard conditions—but these are the circumstances that also keep the hardy in the community and drive out the fair-weather Buttians.”

Businesswoman Kyleena Falzone doesn’t plan on relocating anytime soon. She and her partners own two successful restaurants, the Secret Stash and Bonez, which are doing well but she talks of the challenging costs put on businesses and property owners by the town and county. 

Falzone feels that the town’s parking fees are a barrier to any new entrepreneur who wants to start a business in town. The town charges $13,000 per 100 square feet of commercial space, a one-time charge for businesses that are not grandfathered in, or change the use of the building, which impacts downtown parking. Restaurants and bars impact parking more than a retail shop or office space so, for example, if a retail or office space converts into a restaurant or bar, they would be assessed a fee in lieu of providing parking spaces on their own property, as many of the downtown buildings don’t have the lot space for a parking area. 

Falzone feels those fees are exorbitant and adds, “The town is collecting sales tax on our customers, our business and then they’re charging us parking fees? It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

According to town records, when the Secret Stash (the Company Store building) was converted from several small retail shops and Paradise Café, some of the square footage was already grandfathered for a restaurant but most of the space was assessed the in-lieu-of-parking fee, which totaled $143,000. Bonez was also required to pay the in-lieu-of-parking fee for their outside patio. “Do you know how much money you have to generate to have a profit? It’s a crazy expense for us,” Falzone points out. 

When the Public House converted from retail and office space and expanded their square footage into their basement for a restaurant-bar, they also were assessed the parking fees to the tune of $156,000. They also created three hotel rooms upstairs but had those parking spaces in the back of their lot. 

Falzone says she wouldn’t mind paying those parking fees if the town used them solely to create more affordable housing. The town designates those fees to purchase more parking areas, which come at a premium price for the town with real estate prices soaring. 

Falzone feels strongly that the number one issue for local businesses is employee housing but agrees there also have to be tax breaks on both property and sales taxes, “or we’re going to have a massive problem where nobody lives here and more businesses close.” 

Bonez and Secret Stash employ 165 workers, some of whom have been living out of their cars, vans and, if lucky, an RV. Falzone and her partners bought into the affordable employee housing recently offered to business owners by the town this year because, Falzone says, “I’m compassionate about our workers. We have employees who are living out of vans. What kind of a life is that for them?” 

Falzone also worries, “What happens if we go into another recession? Investors buy up the buildings and hold on to them, depriving locals of business opportunities and property ownership in their own town. I don’t want to see our employees leave or businesses close anymore. I’ve thought about moving my business somewhere else, but I don’t want to leave. This is my community.” 

Franchise protection

Currently, Crested Butte needn’t worry about franchises arriving and opening shop in retail spaces that are available or unaffordable to local businesses on Elk Avenue. The Town Council progressively took the initiative in approving an ordinance last year that limited where formula businesses, or franchises, could be located in town. They cited the threat to Crested Butte’s distinctive character and aesthetics, historical relevance and economic vitality by the “homogenizing effect.” It was forward-thinking and a step in the right direction.

The best plans we can develop will focus on keeping our community intact. More changes are going to come—it’s already happening at a rapid pace but we can find viable and creative solutions to enable affordability for primary residents and businesses when townspeople, workers, business owners, landlords and government officials collaborate and try to create feasible solutions together as a community. More on that next week.

Meet the candidates for Crested Butte Mayor & Town Council

It is election season in Crested Butte and we have a race for Town Council. Between now and the end of October, the Crested Butte News will be asking council candidates to answer questions related to issues in the community. We are asking that they keep their answers to no more than 600 words total. If you have a question you want us to ask them, send it to editorial@crestedbuttenews.com.

The News will also be sponsoring a Candidates Forum on Sunday, October 20 at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. We will begin the questioning at 6 p.m. and expect the event to last between 90 minutes and two hours.

Ballots will be mailed out by October 18 and must be returned by November 5.

—Mark Reaman

 

Jim Schmidt

Mayoral candidate

Occupation: Driver for Alpine Express.

Years in the valley: 43.

Why are you running for Crested Butte mayor? I bring experience and institutional knowledge to the office of mayor at a time when there will be many fresh faces on council. I look forward to the blending of new ideas with the parameters the town has set over the years.

What do you see as the number one issue facing the Town Council right now? The number one issue is affordable/workforce housing. The town has 27 units under construction plus the three units the Fire District is building. We will have more than 24 percent of the living units in town with a deed restriction for workforce housing. We need to continue to work with our partners in the valley, especially Mt. Crested Butte to produce more opportunities for workers to find housing.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: My favorite month in Crested Butte is June. It’s usually not too busy and the weather is spectacular (though this September has been great).

Favorite candidate running for president right now: My favorite candidate running for president is Pete Buttigieg. He is very articulate. He is not one for hyperbole. He has an incredible background and, what can I say, he is a mayor.

Favorite musician or group: I’m an old guy. I grew up on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But give me some Eric Clapton anytime!

 

 

Will Dujardin

Council candidate

Occupation: Crested Butte Town Council 2017–Present, Head Freeride Coach CBMST, Mountain Bike Coach CBMST, fill-in server/painter/events, Badog Alley volunteer coordinator.

Years in the valley: 11.

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council? Two years ago I ran for Town Council on a topical level because I was frustrated with slow action taken by council on STRs and I was encouraged by friends and family to get involved in community I care about in a way that I was capable of affecting change. On a deeper level, I think I ran because it didn’t take long for me to care enough about this community through various work, adventures and volunteering to believe we are capable of truly shaping the future of Crested Butte in a way that connects to ourselves and why we live here to political action.

I am looking to continue my work on Town Council because it has felt like we have been going full send across so many important issues that matter to our community; we are still trying to get a grip on affordable housing, climate action, community health, public lands, tourism and even the reckless commodification of our town character so I hope this community trusts I can keep working for its constituents in these areas preserving our community values and way of life.

What do you see as the number one issue facing the council right now? Two years later I still see creating affordable housing solutions as the number one issue facing the Town Council right now. I do not take our progress in the last two years for granted, developing Block 76 is putting people in housing and the business partnerships in Phase 2 are pioneering an affordable housing tool, but we still need to take more action creating rental housing and affordable ownership opportunities while continuing to protect existing housing by increasing the percentage of deed-restricted homes in town.

I believe we are still playing catch-up since losing a bunch of housing to short-term rentals and we can’t be afraid to look at density in our future projects as a way to accomplish our affordable housing goals and push for more resource efficiency in regards to our Climate Action Plan efforts.

Affordable housing ties so many parts of community together from our mental health to our businesses and our community values. It feels a little funny when we as a community can figure out how to market this valley to the rest of the world and offer amazing experiences in the Rocky Mountains, but can’t figure out how to take decisive action to protect the community members that help run this town and make Crested Butte what it is. It is going to take thoughtful development of our scarce resources and implementing creative solutions through public and private enterprise to make more than a dent in the affordable housing crisis.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: Mayuary, I love letting seasonal confusion dictate which recreational activity is called upon for the day, whether skiing, mountain biking, river stuff, screenholes, books, or bench-sitting.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: A Warren/Sanders combo would align the most with my political beliefs. I was a Bernie Sanders delegate at the Colorado Democratic State Convention in 2016 representing our Gunnison County Democrats. I think the issues and ideals he has been fighting for throughout his career are mainstream Democratic priorities at the present. Elizabeth Warren is one of the smartest presidential candidates I have ever seen and her record in the Senate fighting against big business is something to be proud of. For me it’s either of these two and then any Democrat before Trump.

Favorite musician or group: Been on a Lizzo / Slayer / Tool / A Tribe Called Quest / Hall and Oates / Logic kick for a bit.

 

 

Candice Bradley

Council candidate

Occupation: Business owner, tattoo artist.

Years in the valley: Five years and 5 months.

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council? I am running for Crested Butte Town Council because I think it’s important to maintain an open and accepting community. I have made it my goal while serving on Town Council to seek out those who may have differing views or ideas and hear their side of the issues.

What do you see as the number one issue facing Town Council right now? When I have asked people what they think the biggest issue is in Crested Butte right now, they often say housing. I agree that the lack of rental housing is a major issue, but I also see a larger darkness on the edge of town. The housing crisis has made severe impacts on all aspects of the community, businesses possibly being the most visible. Combining housing needs with increasing property taxes, short-term rentals, the purchase of the ski area and healthcare needs. I think that developing a plan to financially prepare for a change in our economy, the diverse needs of the people in our community and environmental sustainability are key to the success of the community. In short, I believe the number one issue facing Town Council is strategic planning for the future needs of this community.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: June.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: I don’t currently have a favorite candidate running for president of The United States. I am interested in a couple Democratic candidates and need more time to decide.

Favorite musician or group: Currently, my favorite band is Lightning Dust.

 

 

Mallika Magner

Council candidate

Occupation: Attorney with a local practice specializing in land use, municipal representation, commercial transactions, estate planning and homeowners associations.

Years in the valley: I moved to Crested Butte in 1995, left in 2006 to spend time in India and returned full-time in 2017 (with a name change from Laura to Mallika).

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council? To continue to put my skills, experience, deep ties and love for our community in service to the Town. I want to listen and hear the concerns and issues facing those who live here, and represent the entire community.

What do you see as the number one issue facing Town Council right now?  Helping maintain our core values in this rapidly changing community, including providing housing for our workforce, making decisions that support local businesses and residents, encouraging our bike and pedestrian lifestyle, addressing climate change and making responsible fiscal decisions.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: Elizabeth Warren.

Favorite musician or group: The Clash.

 

 

Monique “Mona” Merrill

Council candidate

Occupation: Owner of Amazing Grace, an old-school natural foods café in Breckenridge. Mother of a 6-year-old at CBCS. Board member at the Children’s Trailhead Museum.

Years in the valley: Our family purchased our home by the Nordic Center 10 years ago and our daughter started at Stepping Stones five years ago. I have been coming to Crested Butte since 1993, racing the Alley Loop, the Grand Traverse, the NORBA bike races and numerous other grassroots events.

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council? I love Crested Butte and want to keep it community based. I decided to raise my daughter here, and our family plans to be part of Crested Butte forever. I am a small town gal and what made me fall in love with Crested Butte is the true face-to-face community of locals that live and thrive here. Like many of us, I am troubled by the rapid changes happening to our town—many of which threaten the very things we love most about Crested Butte.

I lived in Breckenridge for 20 years and witnessed its transformation from a small ski town to a mini city. I watched as the town gentrified and the locals cleared out. I feel a sense of urgency and duty to stop these losses from happening here in every way that we can.

I think the grassroots non-profits, local businesses on Elk and local families living in town are imperative to the health of the community. What Crested Butte has is special: CBMBA, CBCC, Mountain Roots, Children’s Trailhead Museum, School of Dance, the Nordic Center… just to name a few. I hear a lot changed before I got here but there is still so much community and core left that can be preserved, especially compared to other ski towns. I believe my experience running a small business and serving on Open Space in a ski town purchased and developed by Vail Resorts will provide useful insight to town Council.

What do you see as the number one issue facing Town Council right now? How do we manage growth in such a way that it doesn’t displace locals or our grassroots vibe and leave us with empty town syndrome? How do we manage growth as it affects our backcountry crowding and local trails? My preference would be to see zero growth, but I realize more visitors and growth are inevitable and help support local families, bring in tax dollars and create jobs. Where we must accept it, how can we minimize the impact and maximize the benefits? I commend town on their five-year affordable housing plan, taxation on STRs and long-term deed restrictions. On council, I want to make sure we follow through with implementation of the five-year plan, add to our open space, improve collaboration with the county and increase funding where possible—finding ways to have visitors and second homeowners pay what it takes to preserve the town we all love.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: September… No—every month! I go on trails and in the backcountry almost every day so I know where to hide.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: Elizabeth Warren.

Favorite musician or group: Xavier Rudd. He sings about saving the earth and keeping it real. He turned down the Belly Up and rocked the house at the Center for the Arts last month and I ran into him at Mountain Earth. Love it.

 

 

Laura Mitchell

Council candidate

Occupation: Ortho-Bionomy practitioner, property manager, Frank’s Deli star sandwich maker, Crested Butte Town Council member.

Years in the valley: This will be my 33rd ski season in the valley.

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council? There are a few projects that I have helped get started that I would like to see to completion. I have some history as a “mid-timer” that adds some depth to the council.

What do you see as the number one issue facing the Town Council right now? Brush Creek development.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: October.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: Marianne Williamson.

Favorite musician or group: Leftover Salmon.

 

 

Anne Moore

Council candidate

Occupation: Self-employed professional cleaner.

Years in the valley: My parents picked this place to raise me—I chose it of my own volition as an adult. As result, I have spent the vast majority of my 36 years on this planet living in the most beautiful valley on Earth.

Why are you running for Crested Butte Town Council?

Through many years of volunteering in order to further positively progress our community, I feel it is time for a more direct, hands-on approach. Aligned with my mentality for positively impacting the Crested Butte community, the Great Muhammad Ali encouraged, “Service to others is your rent for your space on this planet,” and I am here to serve the people.

What do you see as the number one issue facing Town Council right now? Affordable rental housing.

Favorite month in Crested Butte: I thrive in November and May. I love and value the breathing room and the space for everyone to be themselves.

Favorite candidate running for president right now: Bernie Sanders has my full support. Furthermore, I admire Marianne Williamson for helping to expand the conversation. To have a presidential candidate discussing the deeper matters of our souls and responsibilities to Earth is exactly what we need. The bigger the conversation, the more informed and conscious the results are.

Favorite musician or group: The Gorillaz.

CBMR shares marketing vision with Town Councils

Untamed and wild

By Mark Reaman

Instead of trying to attract the typical ski family looking for flawlessly groomed slopes, the new Crested Butte Mountain Resort marketing campaign is targeting those skiers, including families, who want something a little out of the ordinary.

CBMR vice president and general manager Tim Baker told the Crested Butte Town Council Monday night that he is excited the ski area ownership, Vail Resorts, “is pushing the envelope in ways the company hasn’t done before. We spent the last year [since purchasing CBMR] trying to listen and learn and we want to share the ‘voice’ we’re trying to put out there. We are tailoring the message to those looking for a Crested Butte experience—and that’s different.”

Baker introduced CBMR marketing director Morgan Bast, who outlined the new branding to the council. “The brand position is that this is an untamed destination at the end of the road,” she explained.

CBMR has shifted the pillars that support the core of the marketing brand—“the foundational truths that define, guide and bring the brand to life”—from being about the “town, terrain and location,” which Bast said is what most ski resorts focus on, and moved to focus on the emotional elements of the place and people having qualities like being untamed, intrepid and gritty.

“This is what we want to communicate to people,” Bast said. “The brand voice is purposeful, clever and has a quiet confidence. The target audience is the Wild Ones, people who take bold risks in pursuit of adventure off the beaten path. They don’t seek convention. They seek to be who they are with like-minded original, free-spirits.”

Bast said the marketing is meant to get the message to such people that Crested Butte provides “untamed exhilaration.”

The “Be Wild” marketing campaign is focused on finding people who would like Crested Butte for what it is and would not be disappointed to discover a funky place that isn’t like other ski resorts.

“We want people to come here and enjoy what we have,” Bast told the council. “And that includes certain families and individuals. Not everyone is comfortable with it, but we want to attract those who are.”

Look for some of those wild ones to be in the Silver Queen and North Face lift lines starting this coming ski season.

Town continues with proposed demolition ordinance

Affordable housing a big part of the idea

By Mark Reaman

An ordinance that would regulate demolitions of residential buildings in Crested Butte is getting a review by the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) and will be considered by the Crested Butte Town Council in September.

The draft making its way through the system would basically require that aside from historical homes built during the so-called Period of Significance (before 1952), any residential demolition would have to be approved by the town. Buildings built before 1952 are not eligible for demolition unless they are deemed to be unsafe, creating a substantial risk of injury or damage to property.

Applicants would have to show that the structure deserves to be torn down based on a number of considerations such as not meeting town design guidelines, or not being safe in terms of things like poor electrical systems or mold infestation.

Before a demolition permit is granted, approved redevelopment replacement plans would need to be in place for the lot. A homeowner could replace the structure with a larger one but would then be required to include an accessory dwelling unit on-site that is deed-restricted for affordable housing as a long-term rental. If the replacement structure is the same size as the structure demolished, the standard affordable housing payment-in-lieu requirements would be accepted.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman told the council at an August 20 work session that there is an incentive for homeowners to renovate a home instead of tearing it down and starting over, since they could expand an existing structure without incurring the affordable housing requirement.

The August 20 meeting centered on the philosophy behind the demolition ordinance, with much of the discussion taking place between the council and August Hasz of Resource Engineering Group, who has dealt with demolition projects in Crested Butte and other mountain resort communities, including Aspen.

Crested Butte is nearing the “inflection point” where cost doesn’t matter to some homeowners, Hasz told the council, so if the council thinks demolitions will be limited because of fees and expensive mandates they are mistaken.

“As prices here go up, an $800,000 shack will end up being a couple of million dollars to renovate. The cost of the fees in the project won’t be a deterrent. Instead, you have to use the opportunity to offset the need for affordable housing or whatever,” Hasz explained. “The cost of renovation versus a rebuild doesn’t matter at that point. We deal with clients with $30 million a month income streams so they’ll do whatever they can to get what they want. Money isn’t a factor, really.”

Councilman Paul Merck said that a demolition and rebuild can have benefits above a renovation, since, “A lot of times you’ll end up with a better structure after a demolition instead of a renovation. But there’s a lot of factors involved.”

Hasz agreed and said the old saying that the “greenest house is one that is already built” isn’t necessarily true. He said considering the broad scope of the structure from embodied energy used to construct it to energy efficiency during its life is complicated.

“Generally, the 1970s and 1980s seem the worst construction period in the history of Crested Butte,” Hasz said. “There were some really bad and inefficient houses built then. And as far as recycling those structures, it isn’t very successful. There is very little that comes out of those old houses that can be reused efficiently.”

Hasz gave the council and town kudos for addressing the demolition issue but said it was a huge undertaking. “My recommendation is that you have to determine whether the mass, scale and character is enough to preserve,” he said. “If it is, do the current BOZAR regulations do that?”

Yerman said the ordinance addresses mass and scale by mandating that if a property owner wants to demolish a building and build larger, they have to provide an affordable housing element. The council liked that aspect of the ordinance and seemed to lean toward requiring that the affordable unit would have to be placed onsite. For example, a homeowner couldn’t purchase an existing condo in another part of town or the valley to meet that requirement.

“This is definitely a tough, tough thing to consider but it is important for town,” Yerman told the council.

The council will consider the ordinance at the September 3 meeting after BOZAR reviews it first.

The evolution of a tourist town

Roger Kahn’s new book dives into the socio-economic anthropology of the inevitable

By Dawne Belloise

Roger Kahn’s reading and signing of his new book, How Crested Butte Became a Tourist Town: Drugs, Sex, Sports, Arts, and Social Conflict, will be at the Crested Butte Heritage Museum on Saturday, July 20 at 7 p.m. The book is a deep look into the social history of Crested Butte, based on extensive research through numerous interviews with a wide range of locals who lived in town from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s.

According to Kahn, the concept for the research and consequent book began about 45 years ago when he wrote a proposal to a social science research group, the Russell Sage Foundation, where he was a consultant.

Kahn explains, “They were trying to make their research more relevant to what was going on, the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s. I was part of the Union of Radical Sociologists, trying to get sociology to look at the power structures and to do research that would help the working class people and people of color, information that would help them in their struggles for social justice. We were trying to change the focus of the grant-giving parameters to change their policies in order to be useful for civil rights activists. People of color, women’s rights, civil liberties, activists, and trade unionists were all being studied but few were studying the powerful people of society, the elected officials, heads of banks, ultra-wealthy, and the power elect.”

Kahn wrote the proposal shortly after moving to Crested Butte in the late 1960s. “We were living in a unique and dynamic community and I wanted to study the community I was living in. They turned it down. They couldn’t put it together, they didn’t get it.”

The book addresses the formative period of the mid-60s to the late 1970s, which helped to determine what would happen in the future of this town.

“My research was very extensive. I read every single word in the Crested Butte Chronicle, also the Crested Butte Pilot. I mean every word, every letter, editorial and even ads during that era,” Kahn says.

Kahn also conducted unstructured interviews. “Basically, I asked five questions: Where’d you come from, why did you come here, what did you do for work and play, what were some of the wildest craziest things you did? The latter question led to some remarkable answers about drug use, marital indiscretions and stories about mushroom gathering. I interviewed a broad section of people, a cross section from radicals to the politically conservative.”

Through his research, Kahn realized that the same cultural phenomenon was taking place at resort towns across the nation. “The development of those tourist towns and their proliferation following WWII was the same thing that happened to Telluride, Tahoe, Bear Lake and Laguna Beach, California, all the tourist towns. I understood that all the tourist towns emerged from tiny towns that were ethnic—mining, logging, fishing towns—all of these towns emerged as tourist towns in the 1960s and ’70s in conflict with the populations and cultures of the previous residents who were all working class blue collar. A large portion of counter culture people of the era, whether hippies or social activists, came from parents who were the new middle and upper middle classes in America. They (the counter culture) were the first generation offspring of middle class, highly educated and widely traveled people. They were what socialists and anthropologists called ‘downwardly mobile.’”

Kahn’s book encompasses these concepts.

Kahn says he used to think Crested Butte’s evolution was unique, but he now believes, “We are not and moreover, Crested Butte evolved for the same reasons and in the same way as the other tourist towns. I make a strong point about talking about these places as a tourist town and a recreation community. People go to these tourist places for their recreational needs but they don’t understand that it’s also a tight-knit community. That the workers who allow them to happily play and give them a great experience are themselves a community. They don’t realize there’s a local community and many people who visit haven’t the faintest idea there’s a community here.”

In his book, Kahn identifies three distinct groups who arrived after the coal mines closed. “First, the trailblazers from Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado who mostly came with the opening of the ski area [CBMR opened in 1962]. They were younger than most of the old timers and culturally were comfortable with the Old West. The second group is the tourist town pioneers, who were anti-war and pro-civil and equal rights, clean up the environment, pro-personal growth, and back to the land. Some were outlaws, escaping the law and were anti-authority movement. They were interested in finding more ways of living than making a living.

“The third group,” Kahn says,  “is the recreation community settlers. Culturally, they were very similar to the pioneers in that they were pro-civil rights, anti-war, pro-women rights. The big difference is that they were here for the local election of 1972, the most important election to the rise of Crested Butte as a tourist town. That election saw a complete turnover with the hippies elected and, with that, everything changed as all the resources were put toward building a tourist town. Word spread that there was this little town in the mountains that the hippies took over and people started to come because they heard housing, food, and living were cheap and there was a great ski area. New people started coming, from New York, Aspen, California, Michigan, and Chicago,” to name a few, he says, “the disgruntled of the cities. This third wave started pushing for more growth.”

To address the current changes, Kahn included an epilogue. “I summarize that today’s locals see the billionaires driving out the millionaires. It’s the prevalent conversation and opinion on the street these days. The most recent change really began with the recession of 2008, when the demographics started to flip because a lot of properties, especially condos, couldn’t sell and prices dropped to about half of what they were. People started buying those up for what was considered cheap. Now, they’re selling those at current market price.

“When Vail came in, the price of real estate jumped 25 percent just upon the announcement that Vail was buying. Whenever there’s a change of ownership in any major resort, these turnovers lead to an acceleration of pricing,” Kahn noted.

Kahn’s book beckons to people to understand that this is a new social cultural phenomena that has emerged in the past 50 years all across the country. “Crested Butte, and this study of it, is a unique work but the changes are a typical example of today’s recreational ‘Xurbs,’” he says, a term Kahn coined to reflect a more accurate picture of the tourist town evolution, and, he adds, “I would hope people have a lot of fun reading my book and learn a lot from it.”