BOZAR blues

Once again, the town’s Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) has become the political lashing post for everyone from disgruntled builders, concerned citizens and political hopefuls. For those unfamiliar, BOZAR is charged with reviewing new buildings and some additions in Crested Butte and ensuring they reflect the historic nature of the town. This all had the air of familiarity and rightly so. I paged back in the Crested Butte News archives to the 2003 political campaigns when BOZAR, which was founded in 1980, flared as an issue. The concerns about BOZAR four years ago were slightly different from what we’re hearing now. Back then, they fell into two camps—one, the requirements upheld by the board were stifling architectural creativity and two, the board was arbitrary in making its decisions. In response, the Crested Butte Town Council, with several freshly elected members, identified reviewing BOZAR as its top priority for 2004. To help improve the public’s perception of the board, the Town Council outlined five new operating principles that ranged from BOZAR agreeing to stick with the recommendations set forward by the Design Review Committee, which initially reviews applications to the board, to asking that BOZAR approve projects on “substantial compliance” rather than “absolute compliance” with guidelines. In return, BOZAR members delivered recommendations to the Town Council on how it could run better as a board. Specifically, it asked for conflict resolution classes for board members, help providing more thorough board member training and support to allow it to review certain design guidelines. It also recommended that each Town Council member attend one BOZAR meeting, and two meetings of the subsidiary Design Review Committee to better understand the process. And that’s where the story on BOZAR review pretty much ends. While the 2004 BOZAR board did receive a conflict resolution training, no class has happened since then. In addition, it’s unclear whether the new board members are aware of the priorities laid out by the Town Council in 2004. Also, the majority of Town Council members did not actually attend the meetings designed to help them understand and steer BOZAR in a better direction. Finally, it’s clear that the troublesome BOZAR regulations haven’t been updated—three years after they were brought to light. There are a few reasons that the Town Council may have fallen off the BOZAR reform wagon. One, the Town entered into an unprecedented growth stage and BOZAR, a board of citizen volunteers, was snowed under with work—as was the Town staff that assists BOZAR in making its tough decisions. Two, there was some turnover at Town Hall with outgoing Town Council members, a new mayor, former town manager Frank Bell moving on to Telluride and current town manager Susan Parker coming on board. Three, the political winds changed and council priorities shifted. So here we are today with some new but mostly standard concerns about BOZAR and a fresh batch of politicians who say they’ll take another look at the board. At this point, it’s unnecessary. Instead, the Town Council should simply direct the town’s time and resources into restoring a process that it’s already started. BOZAR members have a good idea of what regulations aren’t working and why. They need time and space to work on those and support to bring them before Town Council. In addition, the Town Council needs to direct staff to prioritize putting BOZAR guidelines online, so they’re easily accessible to all builders. Finally, the Town Council needs to answer a call that a BOZAR member leveled at them four years ago—they need to support this board. It’s easy to let BOZAR run on its own and disengage from it because it’s not always popular amongst Town’s people. But the Town Council has final authority over this board and they must take ownership of it. BOZAR’s processes are not perfect and they may need addressing. But let’s keep in mind where we’ve been before we start the discussion again. -Aleesha Towns

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