Mt. Crested Butte weighing its options over sprinklers

Could involve long public process
Officials in Mt. Crested Butte are looking to save money on the town’s new affordable housing project by eliminating a sprinkler system requirement for the development. Eliminating the requirement could involve the town entering a long public process, and some town officials wonder if the savings are really worth it.

According to Mt. Crested Butte community development coordinator Hunter Dale, the sprinkler systems cost about $7,000 per unit. With two triplexes and five duplexes planned for the Homestead at Prospect affordable housing project, the sprinkler systems will cost the town more than $110,000 at build-out, Mt. Crested Butte Town Council member Bill Babbitt said during a regular meeting on October 2.
The sprinkler systems are required as part of a town ordinance that approved the East Trade Parcel annexation, which in turn allowed the Prospect subdivision to be built. The Homestead project is planned for the entryway to the Prospect subdivision on the north side of town, near the base of the Gold Link and Prospect ski lifts.
Eliminating the requirement could be justifiable, Dale said, because there are residences right across the street from Homestead that do not have sprinklers.
Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan questioned the effectiveness of the requirement set by the Crested Butte Fire Protection District around the development. “If it’s a critical issue they should be asking for it on every home,” Morgan said.
Dale said there weren’t any development issues that would inherently require the sprinkler systems. For instance, the street widths met the town’s fire code policy, Dale said.
Dale said there were two options should the town wish to eliminate the requirement. First, the Fire District’s board of directors can be asked to waive the requirement, Dale says. The other option is to seek an amendment to the development plans.
Last fall, the town staff asked the fire district board to remove the requirement, but the request was denied, Dale said.
He said the Town Council, rather than staff, might have better luck in persuading the district.
Morgan said he didn’t think the district would change its decision. “They do not want to waive the requirement because it puts the liability on them,” Morgan said.
Council member Mike Kube said the town needed to form a better working relationship with the Fire District. “Maybe this is an opportunity,” he said. Kube said the aim would be to prove that affordable housing is important to the town and that sprinkler systems only made the homes more expensive.
Dale said the other option is for the town to make an amendment to the Prospect Planned Unit Development. Dale said it would have to be a joint application with Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), the developers of the Prospect subdivision. He said the process could take several months of meetings and public hearings, but could be finished before the next round of affordable housing units are constructed.
Construction of the first duplex by the town of Mt. Crested Butte in the Homestead Community Housing project began in August and is expected to be complete by next spring. Dale said the duplex will cost the town approximately $500,000 to build.
Council member Tom Steuer asked if CBMR would agree to the amendment process.
Dale said the amendment would affect CBMR too, but, ”they’d want (the town) to take the lead.” He said CBMR would be negotiating with the Fire District during future development processes and may not want the extra burden.
Mt. Crested Butte town attorney Rod Landwehr said the expense of the public process relative to the savings from not installing sprinkler systems may not be worthwhile when compared to the savings from the town’s insurance.
Council member Danny D’Aquila agreed and called the sprinkler systems a double-edged sword, noting that the initial savings were attractive, but the insurance savings may be worth it in the long run.
Steuer agreed also and asked Dale to estimate the savings through insurance compared to the initial savings of not installing the sprinkler systems, and then provide that to the council. Dale will give another update on Homestead on November 6.

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