Traffic study an issue
The Town of Mt. Crested Butte’s meeting room was packed last Wednesday, with people there to listen and comment on Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s (CBMR) latest development and traffic management plans for Mountaineer Square North. Citizens interested in commenting on the proposal will get another chance, as the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission decided to continue the public hearing until December 19.
Mountaineer Square North is a proposed development located at the current site of the resort’s main parking lot. The development includes hundreds of residential units, new retail space and more conference facilities spread among three main buildings and a site reserved for the town’s proposed aquatic center.
It has been six months since the Mountaineer Square North development was pitched to the public, and last week’s meeting marked the fourth public hearing on the topic. During the meeting the project’s lead designer, Chris Dunn with the design firm EDAW, requested the public hearing process be closed so the Planning Commission and design team could resolve issues one-on-one.
Dunn said the latest changes included an updated traffic plan. CBMR hired Schmueser Gordon Meyer (SGM) Engineering to study traffic issues and create a traffic plan for the proposed development. SGM included two roundabouts in their traffic plan at the request of Bill Fox, the town’s traffic consultant, but CBMR says they’re not officially part of the plan.
"This project in and of itself does not require roundabouts. We’re showing that in the future they may be needed and don’t encumber the project," said CBMR’s director of real estate and planning Michael Kraatz.
SGM’s traffic engineer from Glenwood Springs, Lee Barger, said additional improvements along Gothic Road such as acceleration and de-acceleration lanes will be needed beyond the transit center, in addition to roundabouts or stoplights for traffic control.
Dunn said roundabouts would not be considered until CBMR’s other proposed development, the North Village, is about 50 percent built out.
A new traffic issue was uncovered where a service vehicle entrance is proposed for the north building, requiring trucks to pull into a nearby bus loop before backing across the street. Planning Commission chairman Dusty Demerson asked Fox if he liked the proposed service access. "That makes me a little nervous, having to back in across an oncoming lane," Fox said.
Dunn said service truck drivers may be given specific times to make deliveries to avoid traffic problems. Demerson said he was not convinced that controlled deliveries would be the solution. Demerson also said he was concerned about snow removal vehicles compounding the traffic problems due to the development’s lack of snow storage.
Entry into the Grand Lodge was also redesigned after being highlighted as a traffic issue during previous hearings in October, but the latest solution didn’t make the grade for the Planning Commission or the public. A pedestrian path once proposed for the back of the Grand Lodge is now proposed as a segment of driveway for use only by service vehicles and Grand Lodge residents or visitors. A skier drop-off is proposed for the north side of the Grand Lodge, but could complicate entrance into Mountaineer Square North with several one-way lanes and concrete islands. "I find that to be the most confusing, convoluted section of driveway I can imagine," Demerson said of the new traffic scheme.
Mountain Express assistant manager Bill Quiggle said the traffic scheme was fine with the bus drivers, but said he was concerned about use of the road around Grand Lodge. "If there is not an armed guard there, that’s going to become the skier drop-off," Quiggle said.
Dunn admitted skier drop-off poaching would be a problem. "There’s a lot of places where people will be poaching to drop-off; probably a dozen that aren’t indicated," he said.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Jim Sharpe said the skier drop-off point was very inconvenient. He also said that since the main parking lot would eventually disappear, the resort would need to consider an overflow parking lot, as well as dedicated parking for the town’s proposed aquatic center.
"We’re building a reputation that’s going the wrong way," Sharpe said. "It’s already hard to get here, and apparently it’s hard to be here, too."
Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge said the traffic analysis was done hastily. Acceleration and deceleration lanes proposed by traffic engineers may not be possible due to geological factors and other existing structures, Goettge said, and cited the town’s own community plan, which says Gothic Road cannot be widened.
Aside from traffic, the town’s planning consultant, Julie Anne Woods, asked how part-time ownership would work for the development’s 475 proposed residential units.
"We’re not proposing to put any type of restriction on whole ownership units," Kraatz said. Ninety percent of residential owners at the existing Lodge at Mountaineer Square were enrolled in the resort’s rental program, he added.
Demerson said the area was meant for hotel usage. "This town is committed to not chasing every retail dollar and being the bed base for this end of the valley. If that doesn’t come to pass, while the ski area may prosper, the town is screwed."
The Planning Commission also took issue with building heights after member David O’Riley asked where fire-resistant materials needed to be used on buildings. Kraatz said all materials above the third floor of buildings had to be fire resistant, but Demerson said the term "story" is meaningless and CBMR is planning a one-story building that is 28 feet tall.
Dunn said the planners tried to maximize open space. "If we drop the elevations of these buildings down then we’d have to go in with a different scenario where a lot of this space would have to be filled in," he said.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission was uncomfortable discussing building height because of confusion over how the buildings were being measured. Demerson said a better explanation of building height would be needed at the next meeting.
Demerson encouraged the developers to create more visualizations and 3D walkthroughs for perspective. "You could not do too many of them," he said.
After taking public comments the Planning Commission decided to continue the public hearing until December 19 for another chance to resolve lingering issues.