Friday, September 18, 2020

Search Results for: resort town life

Profile: Missy Ochs

Fashioning a rich life in the mountains

By Dawne Belloise

Missy Ochs was rather British until her second birthday, when her military family moved from a base in England to Lowry Airforce Base in Denver. Her father had been in three wars—WW2, Korea, Vietnam—and the invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Her mother, Missy says, was a worldwide ski bum who wanted to retire in a place that she could pursue her love of the sport, so Missy grew up skiing Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park. As a child, Missy was quite athletic, kicking a soccer ball around and putting in a lot of pool time as a swimmer. Her mother imparted the love of art and culture, motoring the kids out to events in a VW pop-top camper all over Colorado because she loved to go places.

When Missy graduated from Arapahoe High School in 1990, her first college choice was Western State College in Gunnison (now Western Colorado University). “It was the closest to a ski area and I received a scholarship for academics,” she says, which all fit perfectly into her future plans to study sports-related kinesiology as applied in sports performance. She took many classes in recreation, biology and physiology, also figuring a business minor would complement her studies.

“I wanted to do physical therapy for sports. I was skiing five days a week with the college freestyle team. We skied Monarch, where we trained twice a week, and on weekends and Wednesdays.”

She was on a “Western Scholars Year,” which is essentially a semester system that stacks classes all summer so students could get in as much skiing as possible during the winter semester without having to deal with a loaded class schedule. “The team competed under the United States Ski Association [USSA] and traveled around the state,” she explains, noting that it’s a competition of mogul, aerial and ballet skiing, although none of the team did ballet. Missy also judged the freestyle skiing for the USSA for an entire decade, from 1995 to 2006. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology in 1994.

After graduation, Missy chose to stay in Gunnison. “I didn’t want to leave,” she confesses, because she loved the area. She was working as the assistant manager at Joseph’s, a restaurant east of Gunnison, and in the summer she was slinging burritos and scooping ice cream while silkscreening tee shirts at the Seabar in Gunnison. Surprisingly, Missy wasn’t a mountain biker yet. “At the time it was so new—and it hurt!” she laughs. “We were still riding rigid frame hard tails.” But she was skiing, working and hanging out with friends, living the mountain town dream at 21 years of age.

The following year she moved back to Denver to continue her education but, she discovered, “It was very competitive to get into physical therapy school. You were wait-listed. Spas were just starting to become a viable business opportunity, so my focus was spa development, which essentially covered needs assessment to operational start ups.” She received her master’s degree in hotel and resort management from the University of Denver in 1996 and did her internship with the Oxford Hotel and Spa in Denver.

“I worked for Dana Crawford, who was involved in the development of Larimar Square, the Union Station revitalization and the loft concept of LODO. It was such a great start,” Missy says of her three years there before moving on to Hotel Monaco to help with their start-up when they opened a spa in 1997.

Cramming in as much mountain time as her demanding corporate jobs would allow, she was snowboarding with her buddies, doing the I-70 corridor ski resorts on weekends when one day, she hit the wall. “I totally bonked on the corporate vibe. I was driving in traffic to get to work, and from 1994 to 2000, I worked in four different hotels. All of a sudden, it all felt empty to me and I just wanted to travel,” she says.

Her father had just passed away, and she took to the highway, driving north to Canada. “I hiked across the Olympic National Park for 27 days with the National Outdoor Leadership School [NOLS]. If I wasn’t going to work I wanted to do something that would be life enhancing so I did two courses,” she says of her gap year.

The second course was a high-end biking vacation experience with a company called Backroads. “We started in Golden and rode to Banff, Canada. It was a six-day trip and it just blew my mind.” She was moved enough to stay on as a guide for two years out of Berkeley, Calif. because she felt, “I loved hospitality, loved having unique nature adventures and Backroads was the number one company in the industry. I guided in Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone National Park and the wine country in California,” where, she grins, she fell in love with wine.

In the winters she skied Jackson Hole, returning to the valley and Crested Butte in 2003, where she was hired to work on reopening the Irwin Lodge. “Irwin was looking for someone to do due diligence, to see if the project was viable. We got far into the process and were close to getting approval when the owner’s business interest took him in another direction,” she recalls. Eleven then bought the property and Missy worked for them for two years as general manager in 2007, handling acquisitions and reviews from sewer and water issues to land boundaries and real estate interests. “It was fast and fun. I really enjoyed working for them.”

But once again, Missy had that same realization. “I bumped my head against that corporate ceiling again. I was working all the time. I don’t live here for that. I would rather be conscientious with my lifestyle than spend all my time working, so I went into real estate during the recession.” Working for six banks, Missy dealt with foreclosures and distressed properties from here to Chaffee County. She still sells real estate.

Milky Way, the high-end fashion boutique on Elk Avenue with its colorful façade and vivid flower boxes, was opened in 1994 by Deb Cheesman. Missy had worked for Deb during the holidays in the shop, helping out during the high seasons, “So I could have access to clothing since I love clothes and fashion. I always have. It was another interest of mine, everything from couture to the new black legging craze.” When Deb decided to sell in 2011, Missy bought the shop. “The timing was right and the package was right for me. What keeps me impassioned by my work is the women I get to work with.”

Missy says she’s intrigued with the intricacy of the work, as trade and materials evolve to more environmentally friendly production and quality. “It’s an ever-changing industry. Fashion is always changing, from color and style to fabrics. I’m trying to focus on environmentally conscious companies. I buy their products and if I’m supporting them, hopefully that will help them continue their products. The fashion industry doesn’t have a very positive carbon footprint in general, but I think it can. It helps if you focus on U.S.-made, fair trade, and eco-friendly companies. And my business practices help. I’m energy efficient, I practice water conservation, recycling, resource management, I ride my bike or walk to work, along with most of my staff, I use alternative transportation. And in business management, meaning how I buy, I try to work with companies who are conscientious. You try to find ways to make a positive impact in life because I feel it’s the little things that make a difference.”

In 2003 she met Dave Ochs while riding in the Cannibal Classic from Crested Butte to Creede. “It was me and 14 guys,” she laughs. “I preferred road riding but then I kind of realized there was only one road here.” When she and some friends gathered to ride the notorious 409 in the spring of 2004, Dave Ochs was also on that adventure. As for the 409, “It was brutal,” she winces. But it was during Fat Tire Bike Week in 2004 when the two actually fell for each other, “and we’ve been together every day since.” They married in 2007 and their son, Ozzy, was born in 2011 with Cadence joining the family in 2013.

“If I were to do my business career over again I’d try to start my own business right off the bat because the rewards then are yours. You are what you put into your own business and I love my business, it’s fun. I get to dress up, learn about different regions of the world, different fabrics. I get to travel and I get to be around women all the time, which is awesome. You shape your own destiny. I’ve learned so many things.

“I love my life,” Missy continues.“I have a good life here and I’m really grateful for my support. I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do in my life—to own my own business and to live in the mountains. I have a really fine family. I get to bike and ski every day. I have great friends here. It’s community and lifestyle. My lifestyle is my community because the friends I have do what I love to do and are such good people. We share that high alpine value system. Knowing that my friends had an amazing experience in their day as well, whether it’s walking to the Gronk or even just going to the post office, it’s gratitude and celebrating Crested Butte goodness.”

Profile: Andrea Rybarz

Huntress and bartender

By Dawne Belloise

Andrea Rybarz proudly claims that she grew up in a trailer next to the dunes—the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in the small western Michigan town of Hart. “Mom and Dad are not rednecks,” she grins, “but I probably am. I’ve never owned a truck that didn’t have a lift on it.” Many a day was spent driving on the dunes with her big truck.

Her family has owned and operated Heart Pizza in their little town since 1981. Her mom is basically running the restaurant while her father is getting ready to retire as a computer programmer.

Andrea’s dad was an avid outdoorsman and she grew up cross country skiing and riding snowmobiles, as she recalls, “We get a lot of snow there with the lake effect, more than other areas in the state.” When summer finally arrived, her father would take her fishing and hunting. “My dad got me my first bow when I was eight years old. I’ve been rabbit and deer hunting my whole life on our 40 acres. I try to go hunting with my dad every year.”

She’s still quite the archery huntress, and this year, Andrea was awarded a big horn sheep tag here. “It took me 14 years to get the permit. I went solo. I had friends helping me about four days out of three-and-a-half weeks.” As a conservationist, Andrea feels that all the herds in Colorado need to be managed far better. “The Department of Wildlife [DOW] gave out four big horn licenses but there were only eight rams in a herd of maybe 30. I feel that all of the herds in Colorado are being ill managed and they’re overselling tags because it’s an opportunity state. They want you to come here and hunt but when you don’t put restrictions on it, the herds don’t have a chance to grow. Young animals are being killed prematurely.”

She did not get her sheep. Instead, Andrea became the prey. Having set up a game camera, Andrea quickly realized there weren’t sheep in her unit near Mt. Ouray because there was an enormous mountain lion living in the area.

“I was up there alone at 13,000 feet, without my handgun, and about to hike back to my truck down through a mile and a half of scree and another mile and a half of trail when I heard something in the rocks next to me,” Andrea says.

When she turned, a big cat was coming towards her from 20 feet away. “It stopped. I took three steps back and it came towards me again. It was coming in hot. It was so close I could see every whisker. I knew that I had to be ready to shoot. It seemed that it was not going to let me go, so I took a shot.”

Her arrow missed the cat by one inch. It jumped back but turned and came right back at her. She had only two arrows left. She grabbed her knife. “I got as big and loud and scary as I could be. The cat was behind a low cedar tree and I started breaking the branches off of a downed dead tree, picked it up and started dragging it down the mountain, being as loud as I could. The tree was breaking and popping and making all kinds of noises. I thought, just don’t fall.”

The cat disappeared, but Andrea looked over her shoulder the entire three miles back to her vehicle. “I got back to the truck and figured I should take a few days off hunting. And then I thought, nah, I’ll drive to the other end of the unit. The next morning, I found all the sheep two mountain ranges over. These are native sheep. The Almont sheep are transplant sheep. They’re bred differently. All those sheep you see in Almont were put there by the DOW.”

As for the big cat, she warns, “There are mountain lions living all around our valley now. People need to be aware.”

Back when Andrea was in high school, she was a hard worker from the age of 12 when she began in the family pizza shop. But she confesses, “There were a few years there that I was probably more concerned with partying and socializing.”

However, she graduated in the top tenth in her class of 1999 and by college, claims to have gotten all the partying out of her system. She attended the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, earning a BA in fashion design in just three years because she wanted to get out of the area as fast as possible. “I hated Chicago. I hated the big city and the crime. I was poor, and living in Chicago as a poor person is not fun. I had some scholarships but I paid for college myself.”

After college she moved home to run the family business and started her own fashion line, designing and creating clothing for boutiques. In January 2007, she decided to move to Boulder to be closer to her sister. “I lasted there one month and then decided that Boulder was not my people.” She moved to Denver, primarily for work. “I had a whole bunch of crazy jobs. I was bartending and doing visual displays at the Cherry Creek Macy’s, which was three floors of horrible holiday mayhem. I did that for a year before realizing I was only getting paid $10 an hour to carry 50-pound mannequins around and listen to holiday music, essentially a nightmare horror movie.” At the same time, she was also learning to make fur coats for a furrier.

At one point, she was working at Moe’s BBQ and Bowling Alley in Denver. She had worked in bowling alleys and bowled in a league since she was a child. “I was a bartender-bowling technician,” she says, a job title one does not hear often. “I’d be making a cocktail one minute and cracking on machines in the back the next. I met John Bukaty [a former Crested Butte artist] and a couple other guys who lived or had lived in Crested Butte.”

Bukaty was moving to New Orleans and suggested that Andrea should move into his place in Crested Butte South. She essentially moved to Crested Butte site-unseen during the winter of 2009. “I moved here mostly to go hunting and fishing. I wanted to be in the outdoors.” She landed a job at Crested Butte Mountain Resort working in Adventure Services, selling services such as snowshoe outings, snowmobile tours, hot air balloon rides and dog sledding. “But I realized that bartending will always be better money,” she says of tending bar at Kochevar’s and the Brown Lab, and points out that this year marks her 20th year of bartending, although she only works happy hours now and not late shifts.

“I have had a ton of fun bartending in my life but recently the late nights have been really difficult. People are depressed, suicidal and it’s just not fun. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or what. You see the struggles that the community faces. Why are people always crying at the bar? They’re depressed, they’re emotionally unstable and you’re there serving them alcohol,” she says and feels that bartenders are not qualified to deal with emotionally unstable people.

“During the holidays there are a lot of people without their families here and you feel a bit of pressure to make everybody feel wanted. I want to make sure everybody is having fun. I take a lot of pride in that but sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I’m an extremely strict server. I have no problem cutting people off and asking them to leave. It’s a lot of pressure being a bartender. It’s emotionally and physically draining. You’re everyone’s psychiatrist. The struggle is real some days. For anyone who thinks bartending is an easy job, it’s not. You’ve got to be tough.”

Andrea still sews and does alterations. “I don’t advertise because I can’t keep up. I’m doing it at least 15 hours a week while also tending bar at Kochevar’s and the Brown Lab on the mountain. “I’m not in love with sewing but I’m really good at it,” she smiles. “I made the Flauschink crowns and scepters twice and made the new capes.” Andrea made the red velvet curtains gracing Kochevar’s windows as well. “I’ve tried to stay involved in the community as much as I can,” she says.

The huntress is also choreographing a couple of dances in Move the Butte for this February’s performances. “‘I’m really excited about this. I’ve been dancing my whole life. I’ve had dancing lessons and gymnastics from my childhood and taught jazz dance classes after high school.” This is her fifth year with Move the Butte and for the 2020 show she’s created an all-male dance with a dozen guys working it. “It’s gonna be so awesome. I like to push the envelope and make people feel a little uncomfortable. I’m always doing something borderline inappropriate in dance,” she laughs.

“Just like everybody else, I’ve thought about leaving Crested Butte a million times but I have figured it out here and my quality of life is good. I do something outside every single day, I get to be in nature every day, “ says the multi-faceted bartendress-huntress.”I’m just trying to live life to the fullest.”

Community Calendar: Thursday, December 12–Wednesday, December 18

THURSDAY 12
• 7-7:45 a.m. Guided Meditation (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 8:30 a.m. Women’s book discussion group at UCC.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Prana Vinyasa (level 2) at Thrive Yoga
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa Flow / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 9-10:15 a.m. Heated Vinyasa (level 1/2) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Historic Walking Tour, meet at the CB Heritage Museum. 349-1880.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Yoga Fundamentals (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 11 a.m. Weekly storytime at Townie Books. 349-7545.
• 11:30 a.m. Duplicate Bridge at UCC. 349-1008.
• noon All Saints in the Mountain Episcopal Church Community Healing Service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. 349-9371.
• noon-1:15 p.m. Vinyasa (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon-1 p.m. Ashtanga Vinyasa / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall.
• 1-3 p.m. Tech Time at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 2-3 p.m. Therapeutic Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-6 p.m. Watercolor & Wine at the Art Studio for the Center for the Arts, 111 Elk Ave.
• 4-5:30 p.m. St. Mary’s Garage, a free thrift store. 300 Belleview, Unit 2, on the south end of 3rd Street. 970-318-6826.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Restorative Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Vinyasa Yoga (level 2) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 6 p.m. Talk to a Lawyer: Free legal information clinic sponsored by the Northwest Colorado Legal Services Project at the Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. 970-668-9612. (every third Thursday of the month)
• 6-7:15 p.m. Restorative & Sound Healing (open level) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 6:30 p.m. AA Open Meditation at UCC.
• 7:30 p.m. Narcotics Anonymous meets at 114 N. Wisconsin St. in Gunnison.

FRIDAY 13
• 6-7:15 a.m. Hip Hop Vinyasa at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 7-8:15 a.m. Rise and Align Yoga (level 2) at Thrive Yoga.
• 8:45 a.m. Core Power Yoga Class at the Pump Room.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Yoga for the Flexibly Challenged / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Prana Vinyasa (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 9-10:15 a.m. Heated Soul Flow (level 1/2) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Iyengar Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon Closed AA at UCC.
• 12:15-1:30 p.m. Vinyasa Yoga (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga.
• 1 p.m. Art group meets at the Senior Center. 641-4529.
• 3-5 p.m. Tech Time at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 5:30 p.m. Communion Service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 6-7 p.m. Poi Playshop at the Pump Room.
• 6-7:15 p.m. Vin-Yin Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.

SATURDAY 14
• 7:30 a.m. Open AA at UCC.
• 8:30-10 a.m. Vinyasa Yoga (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga.
• 9-10 a.m. Mindful Flow / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 9-10:30 a.m. Community Yoga at the Sanctuary Yoga & Pilates Studio, Gunnison.
• 10 a.m. Paint Your Own Pottery in the Gunnison Arts Center Clay Studio.
• 10-11 a.m. Hip Hop Community Dance Class at the Pump Room (above Fire House on 3rd & Maroon). 415-225-5300.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Slow Flow (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 10:30 a.m.-noon St. Mary’s Garage, a free thrift store. 300 Belleview, Unit 2, on the south end of 3rd Street. 970-318-6826.
• 4:30-5:30 p.m. Happy Hour Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Guided Sound Meditation at 405 4th Street.
• 7-9 p.m. Dungeons & Dragons Mixer at Rumors Coffee and Tea House.

SUNDAY 15
• 8:30 a.m. Mass at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 8:45 a.m. Slow Flow (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 9 a.m. Oh Be Joyful Church Worship Service at 625 Maroon Ave.
• 9 a.m. Worship Service at Union Congregational Church. 349-6405.
• 9:30-11 a.m. Sunday Donation Yoga / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 10-11:15 a.m. Vin-Yin (open level) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Vinyasa (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon Narcotics Anonymous Meeting at UCC, 403 Maroon Ave. Closed meeting for addicts only. (1st & 3rd Sundays)
• 2-3:15 p.m. Restorative Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-5:30 p.m. Therapeutic Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 5-6 p.m. All Saints in the Mountain Episcopal Eucharist at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church. 349-9371.
• 5-7 p.m. Pick-up Adult Basketball. HS Gym, CBCS.
• 6 p.m. AA meets at UCC.
• 6 p.m. Duplicate Bridge at UCC. 349-1008.
• 6 p.m. Evening Service at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, 711 N. Main St., Gunnison.
• 7 p.m. Gamblers Anonymous meets at the Last Resort.
• 7-8 p.m. Guided Meditation (all levels) at Thrive Yoga.

MONDAY 16
• 6-7:15 a.m. Hip Hop Vinyasa at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 6:30-7:30 a.m. Vinyasa (level2/3) at Thrive Yoga.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Prana Vinyasa (level 2) at Thrive Yoga.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Iyengar (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon Adult Children of Alcoholics open meeting at Union Congregational Church.
• 12:45 p.m. Bridge at the Senior Center. 641-4529.
• 2-3:15 p.m. Kundalini Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-5 p.m. Teen Yoga (18 & under) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-7:30 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for children and adults with West Elk Martial Arts, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall. 901-7417.
• 5:30 p.m. Communion Service at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 5:30-6:45 p.m. Yin Yoga Nidra (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 5:30-7 p.m. Moms in Motion class at the GVH rehab gym.
• 6-7:15 p.m. Prana Vinyasa / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall.
• 6:30-8 p.m. Women’s Domestic Violence Support Group at Project Hope. Childcare available upon request. 641-2712.
• 7:30 p.m. Open AA at UCC. 349-5711.
• 7:30 p.m. Narcotics Anonymous meets at 114 N. Wisconsin St. in Gunnison.

TUESDAY 17
• 6-7 a.m. Sunrise Vinyasa (open level) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 7-7:45 a.m. Zen Meditation (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 7:30 a.m. AA/Alanon Open at UCC. 349-5711.
• 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free Co-Working Tuesdays at the ICELab at WSCU.
• 8:30-10:30 a.m. St. Mary’s Garage, a free thrift store. 300 Belleview, Unit 2, on the south end of 3rd Street. 970-318-6826.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga.
• 10:30-11:45 a.m. Yoga Fundamentals (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 11:30 a.m. League of Women Voters meeting at 210 W. Spencer in Gunnison.
• noon AA Closed at UCC.
• noon-1 p.m. Open Practice (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon-1 p.m. Fluid Flow Vinyasa / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall.
• 2-3 p.m. Therapeutic Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-5:30 p.m. St. Mary’s Garage, a free thrift store. 300 Belleview, Unit 2, on the south end of 3rd Street. 970-318-6826.
• 6-7:15 p.m. Prana Vinyasa (level 1) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 6-8 p.m. Figure Drawing Sessions with live model in Downtown Crested Butte. 349-7228.
• 7 p.m. Alanon meeting at the Last Resort.
• 7-8:15 p.m. Yin Yoga Nidra / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall.
• 7-8 p.m. Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Sunset Hall, 349 Teocalli Ave. in CB South.
• 7-8:15 p.m. Vinyasa Yoga (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga.

WEDNESDAY 18
• 6-7 a.m. Iyengar Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 7:30 a.m. The Crested Butte / Mt. Crested Butte Rotary Club breakfast meeting in the Shavano Conference Room at the Elevation Hotel.
• 7:30-8:30 a.m. Sound Healing and Meditation (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Vinyasa Flow / CB Yoga Co-op at Town Hall.
• 8:45-10 a.m. Kundalini Yoga (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 9-10:15 a.m. Advanced Vinyasa (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Two Buttes Senior Citizens van transportation roundtrip to Gunnison, weather permitting. Call first for schedule and availability. 275-4768.
• 10:30 a.m.-noon Prana Vinyasa (level 2/3) at Thrive Yoga.
• noon Closed AA at UCC.
• noon T’ai Chi for beginner participants in the Town Hall Community Room.
• noon-1 p.m. In the Iyengar Tradition – Yoga / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall.
• noon-1 p.m. Fundamentals of Alignment / CB Yoga Co-Op at Town Hall. (class ends February 26)
• 1 p.m. T’ai Chi for advanced participants in the Town Hall Community Room.
• 2-3 p.m. Iyengar Restorative (open level) at Thrive Yoga.
• 3:30-5 p.m. ICELab tours at Western Colorado University with Patrick Rowley.
• 4:30-6:30 p.m. Parenting Support Group in the Gunnison Valley Health Conference Room, parentingingunni@gmail.com.
• 4-7:30 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for children and adults with West Elk Martial Arts, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall. 901-7417.
• 5:30 p.m. Mass at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church.
• 6-7:15 p.m. Heated Vinyasa (level 2) at Thrive Yoga in CB South.
• 6:30 p.m. Alanon at UCC Parlour (in back), 4th and Maroon. 349-6482.
• 7-9 p.m. “GriefShare,” a grief recovery seminar and support group, meets at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, 711 N. Main St., Gunnison. 970-349-7769.

 

Events & Entertainment

Holiday Market in the Gunnison Arts Center Main Gallery, runs thru December 24.

THURSDAY 12
• 5-7:30 p.m. Holiday Party at the Adaptive Sports Center’s Kelsey Wright Building. 349-2296.
• 7 p.m. CB School of Dance presents A Crested Butte Nutcracker at the Center for the Arts.
• 7 p.m. “Well Spotted: The Parks & Wildlife of Southern Africa,” a presentation with naturalist & photographer Arden Anderson at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 7:30 p.m. Cinderella plays in the Black Box Theatre at the Gunnison Arts Center.
• 8 p.m. Ladies’ Night at the Red Room.

FRIDAY 13
• 2-6 p.m. Pop-Up Chocolate Shop at Scout’s General Store.
• 3-6 p.m. First annual Holiday Tree Sale at CB Ace Hardware, a fundraiser for the CB Avalanche Center.
• 6:30 p.m. Holiday Family Movie Night at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 7 p.m. CB School of Dance presents A Crested Butte Nutcracker at the Center for the Arts.
• 7:30 p.m. Bell, Book and Candle plays at the Mallardi Cabaret Theatre, Community Appreciation Day.
• 7:30 p.m. Cinderella plays in the Black Box Theatre at the Gunnison Arts Center.

SATURDAY 14
• noon-6 p.m. First annual Holiday Tree Sale at CB Ace Hardware, a fundraiser for the CB Avalanche Center.
• 2-6 p.m. Pop-Up Chocolate Shop at Scout’s General Store.
• 3:00 p.m. Cinderella Matinee plays in the Black Box Theatre at the Gunnison Arts Center.
• 4:30-7:30 p.m. Literary Pub Tour de Center with the Literary Arts Department of the Center for the Arts. 349-7487.
• 7 p.m. CB School of Dance presents A Crested Butte Nutcracker at the Center for the Arts.
• 7 p.m. Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum’s Movie Night: Snowbeast. 349-1880.
• 7:30 p.m. Bell, Book and Candle plays at the Mallardi Cabaret Theatre.
• 9 p.m. SoDown plays at the Public House.

SUNDAY 15
• noon-6 p.m. First annual Holiday Tree Sale at CB Ace Hardware, a fundraiser for the CB Avalanche Center.
• 4 p.m. CB School of Dance presents A Crested Butte Nutcracker at the Center for the Arts.
• 7:30 p.m. Bell, Book and Candle plays at the Mallardi Cabaret Theatre.

MONDAY 16
• 9 a.m. Mondays with the Mayor: meet with Mt. Crested Butte mayor Janet Farmer at the Coffee Lab in Mountaineer Square.
• 5 p.m. Holiday Crafting Time: Wreath Making at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.

TUESDAY 17
• 5 p.m. Family Game Night at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 6 p.m. AND Series Event: Watercolor & Wine in the Gunnison Arts Center Main Gallery.

WEDNESDAY 18
• 7 p.m. Panel discussion to explore the rise of sports and recreation in Crested Butte in the ‘70s at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
• 7 p.m. 2019 Christmas Bells Concert at the Union Congregational Church.
• 8 p.m. Ladies’ Night at The Talk of the Town.

 

Kids Calendar

FRIDAY 13
• 9:30-10:15 a.m. Mickies & Minnies in the Gunnison Arts Center Dance Studio.
• 10-10:45 a.m. Storytime! For All Ages at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 4-5 p.m. Tang Soo Do Martial Arts classes for youth with West Elk Martial Arts, Town Hall Fitness Room. 901-7417.

MONDAY 16
• 3:45-5 p.m. Messy Mondays! at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 4-7:30 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for children and adults with West Elk Martial Arts, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall. 901-7417.
• 4:45 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for juniors at Town Hall. 901-7417.

WEDNESDAY 18
• 11-11:30 a.m. Baby & Toddler Storytime (ages birth-3) at the Crested Butte Library. 349-6535.
• 4-5 p.m. Kids Yoga (ages 8 & under) at Thrive Yoga.
• 4-7:30 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for children and adults with West Elk Martial Arts, Jerry’s Gym at Town Hall. 901-7417.
• 4:45 p.m. Tang Soo Do classes for juniors at Town Hall. 901-7417.

I was thinking

So I was riding the new Teocalli chairlift Saturday—actually, I might still be riding the new Teo chairlift, given the speed it was running last weekend—and I appreciate that it has given me time to think. A lot of time to think. Teo is not the fastest fixed gripper on the planet but it sure is a pretty ride.

And just because there is time to think doesn’t mean there is time to reach conclusions. For example, I was thinking about this potential “Empty House Tax” that the Crested Butte Town Council is considering. I’m not on board yet. Is it a fair way to help fund affordable housing or is it just another easy revenue stream and quick way to gouge the rich people who like coming to Crested Butte? Maybe tax everyone and give permanent residents a 90% break. The council representatives have clearly stated they do not want to fuel the fire of an “us versus them” vibe that some on council say already exists, but can their good intentions convince that segment of the community that such a tax is a worthwhile contribution to make in order to make their Crested Butte lives better when they are here?

The council made a somewhat persuasive argument for that case Monday, pointing out that if local restaurants can’t find workers because workers can’t find a place to live, those second homeowners won’t have a good experience when they get here. The second homeowners point out they already pay a lot of year-round fees but impact the place only a few weeks or months a year. The dialogue the council wants to have is up to them to seek out, but Lord knows this tax idea is something the community will be thinking (and talking) about for the next few months. As usual, the devil is in the details.

I was thinking about what the upper valley would be like if all of those second homes were occupied all the time. Talk about lines. It would be like July in November. Good luck getting the seven o’clock dinner reservation. The morning school drop-off would certainly be much more interesting.

It sort of goes to the Crested Butte town staff request to the council to take a big picture look at future decisions. If the community builds, say, another 500 rental units up here, where do those additional 1,000 people recreate or where do their kids go to school or who comes to fix their faucet when it is broken since the local trades people are already slammed? More housing, affordable or free market, means more people and more people means more impact on the climate and more need for more workers and more, more, more. What is the limit, if any, for this community? Maybe that idea doesn’t need a year-long Community Compass (silly name) initiative but those questions should always be part of any decision.

I was thinking about how some local businesses are having a hard time finding people to work even a little bit in their places. It used to be that if you moved here, even with a family, you probably needed a couple jobs. There was no shortage of local moms working as waitresses a few years ago but that doesn’t seem to be a necessity for newer residents. So it adds to that worker shortage. There is a sweet spot with just the right number of workers for the community. I wish there were more workers looking for seasonal jobs right now because I feel the angst some local employers are experiencing. But about two minutes after we reach that sweet spot it will move because someone, somewhere will be short a dishwasher or a clerk. As has been said a lot recently, this place can’t house everyone who wants to live here so we need to think about what the top of the curve looks like.

I was thinking about how Dawne’s “Poor Little Rich Town” series basically pointed to the gentrification of Crested Butte. That is neither good or bad, it just is. It might be inevitable. And honestly, it has brought comforts I don’t want to give up. It’s certainly easier to be here now than when I got here in the ’80s. I am thinking there is no question I’ve gotten soft. There is less wildness, less rowdiness, less questionable parenting and more things to do, nicer facilities, more choices on every front. The old rowdy rule breakers have moved on, mellowed out or died. Or maybe I just go to bed too early these days and miss the new wild ones. Soft.

I was thinking that Mt. Crested Butte finds itself in a fortuitous situation when it comes to future affordable housing. They have both land with the upcoming North Village project, and money with the upcoming lodging tax. Not every government entity that wants to address workforce housing has both of those luxuries. I was thinking it will be interesting to see how they approach the opportunities they have with both money and land in their back pocket.

I was thinking (again) that a person can’t honestly be a staunch environmentalist living at 9,000 feet in a ski resort…it just takes too much energy to survive in a cold, remote valley that depends on airplanes, autos and big ski lifts for its economy. But you can try to make a difference with your situation. And maybe those actions will influence visitors who come here and they will take action back in Texas or wherever. Still, I would never claim to be an enviro and I really think the climate issue is ultimately a population issue.

I was thinking that sometimes we all think too much. How can a family of four afford a ski vacation? Why can’t I buy underwear in Crested Butte? What’s the best time to pick up a package at the post office? Heck, one of the Overheards we received about the Teo Lift this week noted how much more weed a person could smoke given the pace of the newest lift on the mountain. While all these thoughts might make it seem I smoked too much weed on the lift, I didn’t.

So sit back and enjoy the new Teo lift. It really is pretty. Teo, like life, doesn’t always have to be fast. Let it flow instead of demanding it get us there immediately. New housing is happening but it will never meet the ultimate need. Second homeowners already pay a lot to vacation here and they may be willing to put more on their tab but take the time to have the deep conversations with them. More coffee options, a good school, a new performance hall have positive and negative impacts but they are here to stay. Don’t think too much about the good old days. They’re old and they’re over.

Take a breath and enjoy the ride. Be where you are. Not everyone gets that opportunity to be in a place like this.

See you on the lift….

—Mark Reaman

Some local businesses feeling the labor squeeze

“I have so many jobs to offer and no one is asking for them”

By Katherine Nettles

One of the hallmarks of a ski town has always been seasonal jobs, but every ski season brings new challenges for employers looking for workers to step up and spend a winter skiing and working. A quick survey this week indicates that local businesses this year have a wide range of seasonal worker issues, with some restaurants extremely short-staffed and other businesses sitting pretty while workers wait for it to get busy enough to start working.

The Avalanche Bar and Grill, an independent restaurant at the base area in Mt. Crested Butte that employs as many as 60 people each winter, is now at a crossroads due to lack of full staffing as the holiday season unfolds. The Avalanche has had a local and visitor following for lunch, après-ski visits and dinner for the past 30 years, and even before that as the former Artichoke Restaurant.

Todd Barnes, who has owned the Avalanche for the past 11 years, says he is short about 35 employees for this winter. He is looking for cooks, hosts, cashiers and managers. He took a break from fixing a kitchen hood vent at the restaurant on Tuesday to speak about his conundrum with the Crested Butte News, noting that his rooftop repair is one of many jobs he is filling, for lack of any other options.

“I like running a restaurant,” he said. “I enjoy cooking, I enjoy serving people, I enjoy the industry.” But as Barnes was up on the roof pulling a hood vent apart, he said he has been wondering if there is a paradigm shift happening. He has historically been able to count on a workforce of young people, or those young at heart, who may be taking a year or two off from school, or taking time away from the “real world.” But this year his list of employees is short and he is getting worried about the immediate future.

Aside from the niche market of year-round, specialized work within organizations around the valley, there is traditionally a seasonal abundance of opportunities within the service industries as well. A walk down Elk Avenue shows more than a dozen “Help Wanted” signs, as do the Crested Butte News classifieds. Many of these seasonal enthusiasts hold a few shifts in retail or perhaps on the mountain, and then clock in a few nights per week at a restaurant, which generally gets you a shift meal, a convivial atmosphere of peers and some extra money. But the employees aren’t showing up, says Barnes. He says his various ads and signage have tuned up only five calls in six weeks.

“Where are the 19- to 26-year-olds?” he asked. “Have they heard that it’s not worth it to show up until mid-December? Have they heard that it’s not worth it to show up until the snow really flies? Is it the housing problem? But there are 30 ads in the paper for housing or for rooms—and the prices aren’t that bad. I don’t think it’s any one thing.”

While there are certainly gaps in staffing almost everywhere, many small retail shop owners and managers along Elk Avenue feel they are reasonably well-staffed. Common sentiments expressed by business owners and managers earlier this week include: “I wish I could afford to hire someone besides myself”; “We keep it limited to just a few of us”; or, “Summer is the only time we can justify additional employees.”

These might also be common refrains of any small retail shop, anywhere in the world. One Elk Avenue shop owner said the reason she opened up a boutique clothing store in the first place was so she wouldn’t have to rely on additional employees much and could keep the hours with which she was comfortable.

Every ski shop surveyed on the mountain and in town said they were set with returning employees. Yet other restaurant owners in the area have reported similar problems to Barnes’, with a lack of applicants who want to work more than one day per week.

“I need people who actually want to work,” said Wooden Nickel owner/operator Eric Roemer, who noted, like Barnes, that someone working one day per week doesn’t lend itself to stable schedule routines or efficiency.

Octopus Coffee and bakery owner Alexis Bauer said she has ample staffing for winter, but has decided to put her business up for sale after becoming increasingly frustrated with the challenge of summer staffing. One theory she offered was that the businesses that launched years ago, or have been able to launch with extraordinary funding reserves akin to being backed by Wall Street, may have had an easier time becoming established. “But now, housing is at critical mass, the lap-topper invasion of the mobile workplace has filled available rentals but they earn their income in other economies,” she said. And the staffing issue can be a make-or break one.

“Restaurants cannot make magic without a stage,” she wrote of her more frustrating encounters this year with disgruntled or underserved customers and lack of adequate workforce. ”For example, town is awash with excitement for better sustainability, and no more plastics or disposables. But how is that possible if no one is there to wash dishes?” she wrote.

Bauer noted that finding workers who are willing to work day shifts is especially tough. “With huge off-seasons to struggle through, locals may choose to work for more established businesses instead of risking their precious peak summer season to a start-up,” she said. She is now pivoting to production-only instead of service, and to focusing on the businesses she has in places like Grand Junction.

Barnes says the seasonality and the lack of workers has him in a crunch where he is facing 14-hour days almost non-stop this ski season. He may adjust hours as he has in the past to be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. for late lunch through dinner, but he is a long way off from having enough staffing even for that endeavor. His two teenagers are both employed at the restaurant.

“My son is learning to cook at 13 years old. My daughter is a cashier at 16 years old. And she’s darn good at it,” he said. “When she grows up and chooses what she wants to do with her life, she’ll be able to choose a lot of things from that experience,” he said of the early training.

The worker shortage isn’t consistent across the community, or divided between Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte, or even by seasonal and year-round positions. It may be more about industry, in which restaurants seem to struggle the most. The walk-in survey of almost two dozen shops and restaurants in both communities this week turned up mixed reviews—many places could use one or two more employees, dishwashers in particular.

Some bars and restaurants actually have no employee vacancies, and report they have maintained a senior staffing with the change of seasons and even for the past couple years.

Still other restaurants remain closed until mid-December, and open the week before Christmas with a cold start. Crested Butte Mountain Resort reports that it is not feeling much of a squeeze. Butte 66, the Vail Resorts-owned base area bar and restaurant, appears to be well staffed for the season, although workers there have said applicants are sent through a nation-wide database and recruitment system, which goes well beyond classified ads or “Help Wanted” signs. They also said that mid-mountain restaurants are still hiring.

Vail Resorts’ senior communications manager Sara Lococo wrote by email, “We are in a good spot right now at CBMR and are staffed for our current needs, however we will continue to recruit and hire seasonal positions throughout the year, as well as additional holiday support, as needs ebb and flow.”

Time will tell if people are simply waiting longer to show up for job opportunities, or if it’s a longer-term disparity. Barnes says he will give it another year or two, hoping to turn things around.

“It’s a tough spot. When it all starts to crumble, what do you do?” he said. “I have so many jobs to offer and no one is asking for them. It makes my heart break how hard I’ve worked for this. I’ve survived for 30 years here on businesses. I am happy to work alongside people, to work hard. I’m not just out skiing or at home drinking coffee. But 14-hour days is not what I had in mind.”

While Barnes has other, well-paying opportunities within the building and contractor industry to fall back on to make a living, he says most of all, he wants to keep the Avalanche going. “I like owning a bar. I like owning a restaurant. I would hope that the people are going to show up,” he said. “Otherwise, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Mt. Crested Butte agrees to collaborate on North Village

Mt. CB property included in conceptual design 

By Kendra Walker

North Village property owner Dr. Claudio Alvarez and members of his design team presented a conceptual site plan to the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council at their October 15 meeting, asking them for input in the design planning process. 

Alvarez’s vision is to create a village community for Mt. Crested Butte on the 140-acre property located on the northern edge of town. Council agreed to collaborate moving forward. 

“As you see from this plan we’re not doing what has been proposed for the last 15 to 20 years,” said Alvarez in reference to a potential ski area base village with nearly 2,000 residential and commercial units that had been planned for the site when Crested Butte Mountain Resort expected to develop ski lifts on Snodgrass. 

Alvarez continued, “Our approach to this area would be to bicycling, outdoor activities, lots of greenery, lots of views, very low density—a real community, a real village.”

The town owns a 17-acre parcel abutting the North Village site, called Common Area F (where the town campground is located), which has been discussed as a potential location for future workforce housing. The conceptual drawing of the North Village site plan uses this Common Area F for an affordable housing site, but Alvarez would need formal support from council to allow the property to be included into the overall design. 

Alvarez asked council to work with their staff to provide initial thoughts and plans for the parcel, along with their statistical needs for community housing, as it could be incorporated into the North Village project’s planning and infrastructure. “You’re a crucial part in deciding how the overall place is going to look for future generations,” he said. 

The 17 acres would not transfer ownership, but Alvarez and his team want to come up with a design that works for all entities involved in talks about the project, including the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and Vail Resorts.

“We don’t own [the 17 acres] or control it, and we don’t want it or need it, but it’s beneficial for both parties to collaborate,” said project manager Crockett Farnell. “We just want to design all the rest of the infrastructure and roadways around it so it’s an effective community.” 

Gunnison architect and the Alvarez’s local representative, Jennifer Barvitski, added, “This is a phenomenal opportunity for the mountain to hit a restart button and dream big.” She referred to potential affordable housing residents on Common Area F that would help add to the overall vision for the project. “We want those people taking the trails all through the property, going to the village to grab their coffee and we need that interaction, we need that life.”

“Essentially we’ll be a partner going into this to design a great community workforce housing area,” said Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick. “We have a lot of homework to do and work to do with them, but we have to start somewhere.”

“I think it sounds like a win-win situation,” said mayor Janet Farmer.

“It’s a no-brainer,” added councilman Dwayne Lehnertz. 

Councilman Nicholas Kempin reminded the council, “If we get further down the road and we decide it’s something we’re not interested in, we’re not committed.”

Some of the initial design ideas presented in addition to open space and affordable housing included potential retail, office space, a post office, restaurants, a new town hall, a boutique hotel and a lake/reservoir. 

Regarding the lake, “There is a very vague easement… The ski resort has reserved water rights for several 100 acre-feet of water to be stored in this reservoir location and also they have the access right to tap into the water and use it for snow making,” said Farnell. He explained that would require the building of a dam. “Implications of the construction of this dam are pretty severe and the most likely entry point would be through the town’s parcel.” 

Town staff plans to look into the easement to clarify the agreement, to consider Vail’s intentions and to see if the dam construction could be timed with the North Village project.

Council candidates lay out positions – Part 1

Housing and marketing

by Mark Reaman

(Editor’s Note: The Crested Butte News Candidates Forum on October 20 lasted nearly two hours and involved a lot of discussion. We will break up the comments in two parts. This week we focus on candidates’ responses concerning affordable housing and public marketing spending. You can listen to the forum by going to the KBUT home page.)

There weren’t many new big issues or concrete solutions discussed but there were a few new faces at the annual Crested Butte News Candidates Forum, held Sunday night, October 20 at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts and broadcast by KBUT. The seven candidates for Crested Butte Town Council discussed in more depth their views concerning affordable, workforce and senior housing; marketing of the area; short-term rentals; possible luxury taxes on second homes in town; parking in the business district; and the idea of closing Elk Avenue part of the year.

All seven expressed a passion for and love of the community and, while there were nuanced differences between policies, for the most part they all want to focus on ways to keep locals living in a more sustainable town.

Moderator Denis B. Hall kicked off the questions by expressing his opinion that perhaps the local governments were spending too much money marketing the sometimes-overrun valley. He wanted to know how they as council representatives could “ride herd” over excesses in marketing spending.

“Now that Vail has purchased [Crested Butte Mountain Resort], I feel they will market the mountain for us,” said candidate Mona Merrill, who moved to Crested Butte after Vail purchased Breckenridge. “It seems the [public] marketing money should go to more grassroots projects like trail maintenance and things like the [Crested Butte Conservation Corps]. I don’t think we need to market much anymore. People know us and how to get here and they are coming.”

“Vail has the money and expertise and will bring people. We don’t need to bring any more people,” agreed Mallika Magner. “We need to support local businesses but we don’t need to spend more money to market Crested Butte.”

“I respect that sentiment but there needs to be a balance,” said Will Dujardin. “To say we should stop marketing is unrealistic. 

Dujardin continued “Saying we don’t need to add more money to that direction is very realistic and I totally support trying to redirect some of that funding… but we have to be realistic in balancing marketing and trying to sustain economic progress in this valley. We may feel overrun in the summer but people really hurt in the offseason still. We all need to make money to live here and ride our bikes. It’s a balance.”

“We need to as a valley fund what works for everyone and brings in sales tax revenue and keeps our businesses alive but doesn’t overwhelm us in this valley,” said Bradley.

“The problem isn’t too many guests but maybe too many of the wrong kind of guests,” said Anne Moore. “Don’t we want the best guests? The best skiers? The best tippers? The people who love nature and appreciate this place? Maybe take some of the tourism money and research how we get better guests. We need to get the right people here. I don’t want to take the money away but look at how that money is spent.”

“Four years ago we were still traumatized by the recession. Now October is busy,” noted Laura Mitchell. “The Tourism Association [now the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership] budget is giant. There might be a need for a community discussion on how they spend the money.”

How to help housing locals

Locally based housing consultant Willa Williford asked how they would enhance housing for year-round locals in the north end of the valley.

Magner said there needed to be stronger partnerships between the town and other entities throughout the valley. “We can pool our money, get grants and create a unified plan,” she said. “If we work together, make a plan, we can make great strides to house our local workforce.”

“We also need to make sure everything being built is affordable. It’s important to hit the right people. Some people fall through the cracks,” said Merrill. “The land owned by the town will be built out soon so we need to look at more property in town for such housing in the future.”

“Affordable housing is definitely my life on council,” said Dujardin. “I feel sometimes like I’ve been banging my head against the wall because it takes so much time. The Brush Creek project seems to have hit a wall. We need to start planning for the annexation land north of town. Density is key. We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing because we are doing some awesome stuff. I like the Vail InDeed program that pays people to put a deed restriction on their house to ensure locals live there. I want more people in town.”

“I think we need to promote long-term rentals to people who currently short-term their places,” said Bradley. “I’m not sure how to make that more appealing. I also like the idea of buying deed restrictions on free market houses like Vail’s InDeed program.”

“This is the time to commit to getting more housing,” suggested Moore. “Crested Butte gets taken by surprise all the time so we need to address it now. The needs are growing. We create our own destiny. It will take a full commitment.”

“We need affordable and workforce housing,” said Mitchell. “We worked hard to get Paradise Park and it is working. We also need to engage Vail and Western [Colorado University] and all the large employers to participate. We can maybe work with Mt. Crested Butte on a project on the North Village parcel that is coming up. We need to do more land banking and collaborate with the Valley Housing Fund that has a lot of money for such purposes. We’re going to keep trying.”

Angie Hornbrook asked the candidates to be more specific with their ideas on housing and asked if they saw a difference between people who live here and sometimes short-term rent their homes and those who buy investment properties for short-term renting.

Magner said in her travels campaigning door-to-door, she spent some quality time at Anthracite Place, the 30-unit rental complex that houses low-income locals. “It seems awesome,” she said. “The apartments are great and there is a range of people. I would like to see another project like Anthracite Place that has rents restricted by income. Maybe it goes in the upcoming Slate River annexation… As for short-term rentals, there are two categories of licensing meant to help locals who don’t rent their places as often.” 

Magner said she has talked to the town attorney about ways to further increase the number of long-term rental units in town. 

“We need to incentivize people with units to rent them long-term instead of using them as short-term rentals,” said Moore. “Maybe if someone long-term rents their place for 10 years we waive the real estate transfer tax when they go to sell the place. We can waive taxes and fees to people who long-term rent. We need to look into that. We’re going to barter and trade for every bit of space we can get right now.”

“The InDeed program is something to consider,” said Merrill. “That incentivizes homeowners. Programs like that are important. How can we make short-term rentals less attractive? Increase taxes and fees? It’s complicated because I know some locals can stay here by short-terming their units. I don’t want to lose locals who do it in an effort to stay here.”

“The InDeed program could work,” agreed Mitchell, “we could maybe partner with Mt. Crested Butte and ultimately we need to build rentals and dorms. We need places for the ski bums. We also need to close the ADU [Accessory Dwelling Units] loopholes.”

“In conjunction with our Climate Action Plan, we should require all short-term rentals to be energy-efficient or else they can go into the long-term rental market,” suggested Bradley. 

Dujardin said he heard about the InDeed program on a council trip and pushed to have it considered here. “It is a good idea,” he said. “It will take funding but it is a tool in the tool box to increase the number of deed-restricted properties in town. Maybe we mess with the licensing of short-term rentals so that you can short-term rent for two years but then have to rent the unit long-term for six months. It’s something to investigate. We have to keep building rentals specifically.”

Short-term rentals

Priscilla Palhava reminded the candidates that short-term renting allows some locals to afford living in Crested Butte. She said another benefit of STRs is that tourists then stay in Crested Butte and not on the mountain and that helps support businesses. “So short-term rentals bring a balance to town,” she said.

Moore agreed, saying, “We aren’t looking to punish short-term rentals. We need to look at balance and look at every opportunity.”

Mitchell said she has rented her home short-term to bring in needed cash. Magner said she has done the same and feels it is time for the town to revisit the short-term rental regulations and tax structure.

“My concern with short-term rentals isn’t people living in town who do it for extra income; it’s the houses that are vacant year-round,” said Merrill. “I want more locals living in town. I want more bodies, more of a community in town. My concern is with the vacant houses that take community away.”

Susan Kearns said being able to short-term rent her place in town during the 2008 recession “helped save [her] bacon.” She did ask if the council would approach the county about revising or eliminating the lodging tax used by TAPP to market the area. 

Merrill said she thought it a good idea to request that of the county commissioners and revisit the policy. ”Getting together regularly with the county to collaborate with them more is a good idea in general.”

Magner said she too struggled in 2008 and lost her long-term renters, “and I agree that spending the lodging tax money on marketing is not what we need to be doing. Let’s take those tax monies and use them for a better purpose.”

Mitchell said the lodging tax money was also used for more than marketing and has been used for airline ticket buy-downs to make tickets cheaper that helped with winter visits, currently the soft season. “Keeping our ski resort viable is important to me. But we can take a closer look at how the TA spends its money,” she said.

Dujardin said he was not in favor of eliminating the lodging tax and the marketing efforts. He noted that the TA was rebranded to TAPP and the money goes toward more things than marketing. But he agreed that the council needs to look at how the county and TAPP are spending the money. 

Mayor Jim Schmidt, who is running unopposed, said the lodging tax can be spent only within tight boundaries, so cannot be used, for example, to build trails. 

Next week we report on the candidates’ thoughts over a potential luxury tax on second homes, how to take care of the aging population, parking issues and closing Elk Avenue for part of the summer. Ballots are due back to the county by November 5. 

Meet the Candidates: Week 3

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

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

I have been a believer in climate change for a long time, before the first Earth Day. But I am ashamed my generation has not done more for our Earth. I will not be passive anymore in my interactions with tourists and climate deniers. It is the greatest threat to the world and when the U.S. should be doing everything possible to curb carbon emissions, Trump is plunging us backward to the days of black lung and rivers catching on fire. And the weak-willed members of the Republican party like Senator Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton are afraid to stand up to Trump for the generations to come. It’s a case of greed over everything else.

Locally, I have introduced a plan and the council has budgeted for it, to buy green power for one year for all the GCEA accounts in Crested Butte. Hopefully everyone will see how inexpensive it is and continue to do so in the future. The town’s energy action plan is under way and we are looking at every possible way to achieve success.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

Every time I go to another resort town I realize how many things we are doing well.

Housing—23 percent of units in the town are deed restricted and 30 more units are under construction.

Short-term rentals—Our ordinance works well (everybody is a little dissatisfied—it was a compromise) and it is a model for other towns.

Parks, Rec and trails—Outstanding considering the amount of money available. We have leveraged our meager funds for large grants. Downside, we cannot afford a rec center (pool) without doing it on a north end of the valley basis.

Transportation—Mountain Express and the RTA have both worked well for years.

Open space—When officials from Park City were here they were greatly impressed by our funding source and the results.

Parking and traffic—I am not as freaked out as some by the traffic in town. Again after visiting many other ski towns, we have a much higher rate of bicycle use than anywhere else.

Do you use the library? How?

Rarely.

Last book you read?

Last and favorite book: Shantoram.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

We need to get real about the moat. Polar bears and killer whales should handle our climate much better (I’ve never been a snake fan).

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

Vladimir Putin. I want to know what he really has on Trump.

 

 

Mallika Magner

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

I think every person—and every town, county, state and country—has a compelling duty to take concrete steps to protect our Earth. Along with individual actions, we must seek to have an impact through local and regional leadership. Crested Butte’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce our greenhouse gas and community emissions footprint, is a good start.

But we can do more. Many other communities, local governments and others are contemplating this very same question, so it’s good news that we’re not left solely to our own devices. There are hundreds of initiatives being tried as we’re reading this, and I am committed to bringing the best and most effective ideas to our valley.

This is an issue of such worldwide importance that I think we must act regardless of how we think our visitors will react. As a bonus, we can educate them so they can take what they learn here back to their own communities.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

I think we as a community care about the right things. We do that well. But sometimes we take a bit too much time to study issues, make decisions and take action. I’d like to see some long-standing matters, for example, the bike path to Crested Butte South, get finalized. That said, I have a great appreciation for the public process—discussion, input and debate. That takes time. AND… governments aren’t typically the most efficient of entities. However, I think we can and should—always, really—expect more of ourselves. (Maybe this is more a commentary on me than Crested Butte!)

Do you use the library? How?

I am a huge fan of our library, and a frequent user, to check out books and for the awesome programming the library provides. Did you see the hatching chicks, the baby goats or the telescope? Experience the constitutional law or poetry series, or do one of the wine tastings? If not, check out our library!

Last book you read?

Love by Toni Morrison (the choice of my 20+-year-old Crested Butte book club).

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

That’s a troublingly familiar notion! (“Build that Moat! Build that Moat!”) But I understand the sentiment; most of us have wished we could freeze time and live happily-ever-after in a slower, quieter Crested Butte—the prospect of more people, more density, traffic and the associated pains of growth is daunting. But I’m grateful the moat wasn’t built in 1995 when I first topped the hill into town and immediately knew in my heart it was home. And while there have been many changes since then, Crested Butte has retained its specialness.

So I believe that, if we continue to be thoughtful and diligent, we can maintain this unique community. All of the topics discussed and written about here—developing an affordable and accessible lifestyle for our workers and residents, being ecologically responsible, keeping our locals living in town, budgeting and taxing wisely, etc.—are essential toward that end.

In the meantime—if there must be a moat—I propose we build a bridge and a toll booth, and to gain entry, each new arrival must promise to be true to our town’s core values: “We are about community and nature. We care deeply about our neighbors. We walk and ride bikes when we can. We’re seriously committed to maintaining the look, feel and vibe of this place. We’re committed stewards to the beauty that surrounds us. Do you solemnly promise to love, honor and obey? Yes? Okay, then. Welcome!”

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

Greta Thunberg, because of her courage, her truth, her vision and because she gives me faith in humanity and hope for our future.

 

Monique “Mona” Merrill

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

Four years ago our family decided to reduce our climate footprint, and in a few months installed solar, stopped eating beef, sold our pickup truck and replaced it with an electric car. It was exciting to see Colorado HB19-1261 pass, setting aggressive GHG emissions goals for the whole state over the coming years. In Crested Butte, locals are doing a great job on the aggressive new Climate Action Plan. The Town Council will be facing some difficult decisions when implementing our CAP in the coming years, and has an opportunity to collaborate with GCEA on new renewable energy projects. I look forward to supporting these initiatives on council.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

Locals housing: Our affordable housing projects are doing a great job building out much of the town’s last remaining land. This is great for current needs. However, I only anticipate this issue getting more challenging in the future and I’d like to see 10- and 20-year plans. I think we need to expand our land inventory for future projects and I want to make sure that we keep up with the next phase of growth.

Climate: We have been behind other towns in terms of installing renewable power to fight climate change. However, the new Climate Action Plan, backed up by our new state legislation, is just what we need to get kicked into gear on climate. Now for the important part: implementation.

Vail: As I talk to locals about Vail, I hear a lot of positive feedback, with people excited about pay raises and improvements to the mountain. But we also need to remember that Vail’s purpose is profit. We need to be hyper-vigilant, given its financial and political power as a nine-billion-dollar corporation that can drive change on a scale most people around here can’t imagine. There are lots of great people working for Vail and there is great potential to collaborate with them. I believe we need to work proactively with Vail, Mt. Crested Butte and the county to help make sure the development Vail brings fits with the Crested Butte vibe we all love.

Do you use the library? How?

We used the library a lot when our daughter was younger and still in pre-K. The programs they have for pre-K children helped us connect with other families and gave us a place to explore and play. I feel libraries are a vital part of a community.

Last book you read?

Educated by Tara Westover.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

You forgot the dragons and dinosaurs… 😉 I’d like that, but money will fly right over that moat in private jets! We can’t keep the money out, which is why we need to limit its influence where needed to keep locals in town.

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

The Dali Lama. Not sure we would need to talk… just sitting and absorbing his presence would be inspiring. I’m sure he’d help just by smiling and reminding us all to be grateful. His message of compassion and empathy would help unify our community.

 

Laura Mitchell

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

We are planning to be able to have alternative fuel plans along with a spark-proof shop in the future for the proposed new bus barn for Mountain Express. We need to work with Vail Resorts and Mt. Crested Butte so that we can maintain our livelihood.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

As a council we have worked very hard to allow the affordable housing in Phase 2 at Paradise Park to happen. A lot of good faith and dire need fueled our desire to get Phase 2 up and going. We are missing the mark on getting some workforce housing available, however. I think that the larger employers need to be a larger part of the conversation.

Do you use the library? How?

I use the library to print when my home printer is acting up and occasionally find a book I like there.

Last book you read?

Whiskey When We Are Dry.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

I think that might cause some unintended consequences that may or may not be noteworthy.

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

My son Kyle and his ideas for the future of Crested Butte.

 

Anne Moore

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

Living in a ski resort town, it’s impossible to ignore the size of our carbon footprint. We run lifts, we make snow and it takes some fossil fuels in doing so. The current town council and the town staff have developed a climate change action plan for next year that will be more than half a million dollars in spending. In that way, I think we are making climate change a significant priority. However, I believe that we need to start with a simpler approach in the meantime. The best thing we can do for this Earth on a basic level is properly sort our trash. In town, we have the same number of street trash cans as we did eight years ago. We haven’t matched our growth to our waste in this town in many years. If we would like the guests to help us keep this town clean and respect the Earth, then we must make the path clear for them by providing more trash and recycling bins. Furthermore, recycling in the county is getting more restrictive by the day. I would gladly put monetary funds toward the recycling center and would ask all other councils to join us in that endeavor.

If we are going to take climate change seriously, then we must start with the trash. It’s not glamorous spending, nor even fun to talk about, but until we start processing our trash and recycling properly, we are spending money and spinning our wheels.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

Our public transportation system is phenomenal! The buses to town, the mountain, Crested Butte South and Gunnison connect the valley. These buses make living here doable. We have come a long way from hitchhiking signs just outside of town to a full running bus system throughout the Valley.

However, our parking situation needs our attention. We need to create more parking, protect year-round residents’ right to spaces and encourage the use of the school lots as well as really think about how we are going to get our guests from point A to point B once they’ve parked. Resolution in this area will go a long way toward easing local/guest relations.

Do you use the library? How?

Yes! The library has a wonderful selection of books as well as DVDs!

Last book you read?

I love to read—it’s genuinely my favorite thing to do. I’ve chosen to read all this summer and didn’t turn my TV on for three months so there are too many books to list. However, I will share my favorite book which is the most impactful and personally influential book I’ve ever read, and will continue to read: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

No. We need everyone! The folks that come spend money, we need them! The folks that move here to work and ski for a season, we need them! Parents moving here with their families to enrich this community and their lives, we need them! I don’t believe in a closed-door policy. This is an inclusive community and I will always stand by that.

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

Ideally, I’d sit there with my mom, hopefully not talking about much. Bench sitting is good for that.

 

Will Dujardin

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

Tourism and Climate Action/Awareness go hand in hand. Yes, people have to use fossil fuels to get here and even just currently exist in this environment, but we are transitioning to renewable energy as fast as possible. Not to get too into the weeds, but we are only allowed to produce 5 percent of our energy locally according to the contract with GCEA and Tri-state, so we are working with those entities to try to expand our possibilities. In the meantime the Crested Butte Climate Action Plan is in the works with town staff and various stakeholders, so we will continue to keep working on that and push something that can actually make a difference. Banning plastic bags was a start; next are single-use plastics, but we have to go way beyond if we want to make a difference for ourselves and educate our guests. More stringent building codes, incentives for deep retrofits, mandating sleep-mode technology, reducing our waste, using electric buses and a lot more things I can’t list here are all on the table to try to achieve net-zero emissions for our community and show other places it’s possible.

Our council has developed aggressive goals to get our town-owned buildings and eventually our residences in line with this mission. We need to take it a step further by declaring a climate emergency and making sure we are evaluating every decision we make, as in buildings, ordinances, etc., and the impact on the climate it will have. The naysayers go, “What difference does a little town like Crested Butte make?” Well, if we can make changes on our level we can apply it around the world. If a tourist picks up ideas here and can apply them at home, we are making progress. Even though we are a small town, we are part of a state-wide network of counties and municipalities pushing for government action on a state and federal level called Colorado Communities for Climate Action; they were an integral part of last state legislative session that opened up funding sources in Colorado for climate action and enacted more stringent regulations for extractive and automotive industries. Joining CC4CA was something I pushed for so we can affect change locally and nationally—if we lose a few tourists because we are “too progressive” trying to save the world and our winters, then so be it; we’ll attract more people to our town who are more in line with our mindset.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

If it feels like some of my answers are getting repetitive, it’s because I’ve talked about affordable housing three weeks in a row as something we are not doing well enough. We still have not been able to make a significant impact on affordable rentals in more than just the two years I have been in office; it’s been one of my biggest frustrations with my fellow council members.

However, we do have some awesome things going: We’ve found some creative affordable housing solutions through deed-restrictions, employer units; we have a well-used public transportation system, we have access to amazing trails right out of town and our parks and rec programs serve the greater north end of the valley, but you won’t see me patting ourselves on the back much when we are in a housing crisis that we helped create and a climate emergency.

Do you use the library? How?

I have a library card and take out books when necessary; I wish I had more time to go to the myriad of events they host, from informative speakers to dance parties.

Last book you read?

Jitterbug Perfume; working on Leviathan Wakes and Paul Hawken’s Drawdown.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

No, unless we add a small jump you have to clear on skis/board/bike to prove yourself worthy. Jests aside, the protectionist mindset of some people who are fortunate enough to live here is eerily similar to another guy trying to build a useless wall.

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

John Wesley Powell and talk about water in the American West, probably longer than an hour.

 

Candice Bradley

Council candidate

Climate change is becoming more and more of an issue with Crested Butte, so how does the council impact climate change while trying to be a vibrant resort community that depends on tourism?

The council has been making movements to impact climate change. I believe that is a step in the right direction. This is also where I need to learn more as a councilperson. I have enjoyed learning about options that have helped other communities. I must admit that I had some lousy habits when I moved here from the city. I have worked on making my impact less severe with the help from community members.

Being a ski resort community does mean the people are travelling to us on a regular basis. Making that travel less impactful to our environment would be great. Pressuring our energy providers to provide cleaner energy to power the resort, the restaurants, the businesses and homes in our community is a great start. I know that this community is focused on making this planet last a little bit longer. There are so many ideas out there for us to explore and I’m hopeful that we can make lasting impacts.

What is Crested Butte doing well—and where do you think it is missing the mark?

Crested Butte is an incredible community. Most of us know that we have an extreme need for affordable housing, more specifically rental housing. That housing need is the iceberg to our economic success. Without rental housing in the north end of the valley it’s hard to staff an adequate workforce, the keyword being “adequate.” So many business owners cannot staff for the current demands, let alone expand services, products, etc. They cannot develop their businesses to serve future demands placed on them.

When I talk to visitors at my shop, they often tell me the same things. That they are staying at a short-term rental, they are preparing their meals at home because of cost or wait times and that they bring groceries with them. This shorts the town and business owners on revenue. I think the rental housing crisis is causing a dangerous domino effect that will change Crested Butte as we know it. We will be saying “Goodbye” to more and more community members and businesses unless we change this situation.

Do you use the library? How?

My step-kids use the library often as a place to learn and socialize, usually after school gets out. I have used the internet services and copy services. I’ve also taken out books and I have plans to use their DVD library for some titles.

Last book you read?

I’m a notorious book grazer, I casually scroll through pages of many books at a time. The last pages that I read over came from the book Boys Like Her: Transfictions by Taste This. I have had at least one copy of that book since I was 19 years old.

Do you support building a moat filled with snakes and alligators around Crested Butte?

No. Invasive species are no joke.

Who would you want to spend an hour with on the bench in front of the post office and what would you talk about?

I know that most people might answer this question with a more profound answer but mine is simple. I would want to talk to Governor Polis. I would like to talk to him about the future of Colorado, as he sees it.

Endings and new beginnings

As I walk the dogs around the neighborhood loop in the mornings, it is easy to see the signs of the end of summer. There is frost on the sage, there are elk in the wetlands and there are geese flying south overhead. The sun is low and it is cold these days, with temperatures requiring shoes instead of flip-flops. I sometimes shift my perspective as I round the corner near the river and think how warm it would feel if it were March instead of October. But it is October and it is the end of summer and not the beginning of spring. It reminds me that skiing is closer than it was yesterday. In an ideal world we would get another year where the switch doesn’t flip to deep snow until the weekend before the chairlifts start turning and we can ride bikes into late November. That doesn’t look likely at the moment but you never know…

Speaking of… The forecast looks like winter at the end of the week. Snow is possible Thursday and I see that on Thursday night it could hit a chilly 6 degrees. It is quite a drop from the 60s on Wednesday to 6 on Thursday. I look at it as just one more way to cull the herd of people who move here thinking every day is sunny and 75 and all is perfect in fantasy resort land. That sort of weekend is normal this time of year and marks the start of new seasons—sometimes several seasons in a single day. And it’s not all unicorns and rainbows all the time up here…

Speaking of… It appears that the constantly contentious Corner at Brush Creek drama might be ending. Which could open up a potential new beginning with a more solid starting point. It is still a “might,” as all the involved parties have until Halloween to reach some sort of agreement.

Gary Gates of Gatesco Inc., the proponent of the affordable housing project, says he won’t give up. But it is not entirely up to him. He was charged by the county commissioners to formally convince three of the four landowners to move ahead and two of them—the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte—appear pretty firm that they want Gatesco to adhere to the compromise they spent five months crafting. They are sticking to the 156/2/5 figures, where there are no more than 156 units on the site with two parking spaces per unit and five acres of land set aside for a future use. So unless some on either council flip on what they’ve stated strongly at their last meetings or Gates reconsiders and agrees to the 156/2/5, the commissioners have said they won’t allow the developer to submit an application for preliminary plan review. Wouldn’t that be the end of this chapter that seems to never end?

I have wondered aloud what the councils would do if Gates came in and said, “Okay, we’ll go with 156/2/5.” He’s hit what I thought would be the hardest of the three with the 156. And in an ideal world, his partners—all the landowners including the two towns—would help make it a reality with a little financial or in-kind assistance. But as I’ve mentioned before, the brittle “trust factor” or lack thereof between all the parties involved is real in this situation and so I don’t see it happening.

I must say that while charges fly at every Brush Creek meeting—and there are a lot of them (meetings and charges)—I was never put off that some of the units had a thin deed restriction that allowed some essentially “free market” rents but required that local residents live here. That to me added to part of the good mix.

Anyway, Gates hasn’t been at the last couple of Brush Creek meetings. One reason might be that according to my interwebs, Gary is busy in Texas running for an open seat in the state legislature. It’s not his first attempt to get elected in Texas and it is his third time running for that house district seat. Perhaps Gary is thinking of new beginnings as well.

While a new Brush Creek beginning might be difficult to crank up, given where these talks have ended with animosity oozing all over the place, there is a real opportunity to start again on a positive note. A fresh starting point that fleshes out details of a project that could work for everyone including the developer, the governments and the neighbors could happen if ego is set aside by everyone. There is a new pool of state money that could be used for things like infrastructure to make it easier on whoever wants the affordable housing project and the community can weigh in with a positive and active role in molding the development instead of being put in the poor position to react antagonistically to something they didn’t like from the get-go.

A late start to the colors made for a really nice early October in the aspens. It looks like one more big wind day or that snow in the high country could be the end of the gold season and start of the brown stick season.

Anyway, life is full of endings. But each of those offers opportunity for new beginnings. It depends on perspective. Yeah, the mornings are sure cold right now and the heat is turned on in the house—but if it were spring, it would feel pretty warm. Yeah, the cluster of a flawed process looks like the first shot at affordable housing on the Brush Creek property could come to an end, but local leaders can take the many lessons of this drama and start fresh with a cleaner opportunity. There is always the chance for new beginnings.

—Mark Reaman

CB/Mt. CB on same page with Brush Creek issue

Sticking to 156/2/5 could end project

By Mark Reaman

While an official vote was not taken Monday by the Crested Butte Town Council on whether to move off the compromise conditions set with Mt. Crested Butte over the proposed Corner at Brush Creek project, all indications are that the majority of the council is done negotiating.

The council majority appears ready to stand with last week’s Mt. Crested Butte vote to stay with the three conditions of allowing no more than 156 units, requiring two parking spots for each unit and setting aside five acres of the property for a future use.

So unless the project developer, Gatesco, Inc. either agrees with the two towns’ 156/2/5 compromise or can convince the Crested Butte council to move to its latest proposal of 156 units with a 3.5-acre set-aside and 1.65 parking spaces per unit, this particular project could be over.

The Gunnison County commissioners gave Gatesco until October 31 to obtain the formal consent of at least three of the four parties to the Memorandum of Understanding between the county, the two towns and Crested Butte Mountain Resort (the four owners of the land) before allowing Gatesco to submit a preliminary plan application.

Crested Butte Town Council members Will Dujardin and Candice Bradley advocated to continue negotiating with Gatesco, while the rest of the council voiced support to stick with the 156/2/5 numbers. Councilwoman Laura Mitchell was not at the meeting.

Mt. Crested Butte councilman Dwayne Lehnertz attended the October 7 meeting and said his council voted 4-3 to remain on the 156/2/5 compromise since that was agreed to with the town of Crested Butte after five months of discussion. “That was something we all spent a lot of time getting to in good faith,” he said.

Dujardin said he agreed with the tone of a letter from project supporter Jim Starr and said the two sides were so close in numbers that the town should consider more negotiations.

Starr’s letter to the council asked, “Are we really going to pass up or significantly delay 156 units of affordable rental housing and $20,000,000 in private equity for a $40,000,000 project at Brush Creek over a difference in parking of .35 parking spaces per unit, and 1.5 acres of set-aside?”

“A 4-3 vote would suck either way it went,” Dujardin said. “I wholeheartedly stand behind what Jim Starr says. Gatesco is saying that’s it from their end. Now is the time to explore all other options in the next few weeks. Maybe we push for four acres to be set aside to try to get it into the preliminary plan review. If you think 1.65 parking spaces is not enough, maybe we get 1.8.”

“I agree with Dwayne,” countered Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. “What we did with Mt. Crested Butte was a big compromise. It was a long way from the number of units I wanted. I think about Anthracite Place, where the community came together to support that and the county and Mt. Crested Butte and this town all contributed money to it. And again, this project seems so controversial and laden with doubts. I am fine with the numbers we got to.”

“We’re not that far away from making something happen,” said Dujardin.

“I’m not convinced this is the right proposal,” said Schmidt.

“I see no reason to keep revisiting the issue we worked out with Mt. Crested Butte just because they keep asking,” said councilwoman Mallika Magner. “We want a good project. We want a project where the people there will have a good lifestyle, not a place where someone gets home to after working a double and can’t find a place to park.”

“You are making a lot of assumptions, Mallika,” said Dujardin.

“I’m questioning this process,” she replied.

Lehnertz suggested the council review the latest numbers in a revised Housing Needs Assessment that he said proved the Gatesco project misses the mark with what is needed.

Friend of Brush Creek attorney David Leinsdorf said he felt Starr’s letter contained some misstatements and reminded the council that of the 156 units in the proposal, many could charge essentially free market rents, so all 156 units shouldn’t be considered “affordable rental housing.”

Leinsdorf refuted a line in Starr’s letter that stated, “We are experiencing a significant slowing in the generation of sales tax and I can’t help but believe it is caused in part because of the decreasing work force available for our businesses,” by noting that sales tax collections in town were again reported as up over last year by 5.5 percent in August and 2.7 percent for the year.

Leinsdorf also said the parking should be based on number of occupants as opposed to the number of units. He estimated there would be about 400 people living in the 156 units, so 312 parking spaces would not be adequate. “I also urge you to not abandon your ally of Mt. Crested Butte if the north end of the valley wants to have any influence at the county,” he said. “This town initiated the discussion between the two towns and you all worked hard for five months on a compromise.”

Former councilman Kent Cowherd, who had been heavily involved in watching the evolution of the project, also encouraged the town to stand by the 156/2/5 compromise, which he said was fair. “I don’t understand why Gatesco doesn’t fully embrace the three conditions. Then the two councils would support it. All of this friction is unnecessary.”

Dujardin again asked his fellow council members if there was room to compromise in the next couple of weeks, but he didn’t get much support.

Councilman Chris Haver indicated he supported the two towns and didn’t want to negotiate with themselves.

Councilman Paul Merck said he was surprised Gatesco hasn’t agreed to the 156/2/5. “We worked hard for five months to reach this compromise, which was pretty amazing,” he said. “I was surprised we got there. So I think we should stick to it. I feel the compromise is a win for the Gatesco team if it meets those three conditions,”

Bradley disagreed, as she pointed out she was looking for rental housing while no one else on the council was in such a position. “I just have a weird feeling that I’m starving for housing and someone is holding up a loaf of bread and we are saying you can’t have it,” she said. “I think we should work to make something work.”

“I agree with you,” responded Merck. “And I feel we worked a lot to get to the compromise.”

“Is there no way to compromise more?” asked Dujardin. “I feel that compromise was designed to kill the project.”

“I don’t think the compromise was ever meant to kill the project,” retorted Haver.

The only Gatesco representative at the meeting was Jeff Moffett, who didn’t say much other than that the letter sent by Gary Gates to the two councils on October 1 was “designed to provide more thorough explanations” of the Gatesco team’s reasoning for their proposal.

Schmidt noted that there was no requirement to take a formal vote on the issue but that it would be on the agenda at the October 21 council meeting.