*No editorial this week. We have substituted a letter from Mt. Crested Butte resident Rick Chavez
To the Editor:
When I attended the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission (PC) meeting on November 28, I must admit I did not know what to expect. But the course the meeting eventually took surprised me.
I knew Michael Kraatz and his planning group from CBMR (Crested Butte Mountain Resort) was going to be there to continue presenting their plan for the development of Mountaineer Square North (MSN), and I was keenly interested.
For the record, I think the community badly needs this project. It will be a healthy source of jobs and growth that has long been overdue. But in my opinion, it has major flaws. I have seen this plan before, but hearing the planners plead their case for increased building heights, traffic management, skier drop off, open space, retail placement, foot traffic management, parking and truck deliveries was a real eye-opener.
The presentation started off rather innocently until they got to the skier drop off proposal and its traffic management. For those not familiar with its proposed location, it will be on a small parcel of land between Gothic Road and the west end of the Grand Lodge—a very long walk to the lifts.
To say the day skier drop off plan is unworkable, inconvenient, incomprehensible, confusing and inefficient is to say the least. And those are the only nice adjectives my limited vocabulary could come up with.
Even though efforts have been made to keep traffic from backing up on Gothic Road via a right turn lane coming up from the south, the real bottleneck starts upon entering the drop off area, some short yards in, where you make another right turn in to an incredibly small area adjacent to the Grand Lodge.
Once your drop-off is complete, you must maneuver to avoid other traffic (and hitting people carrying skis) to exit the lot where you came in—only this time you can only exit to the right, away from Gothic, and travel down a small access road between the Grand Lodge and MSN, past two weird shaped concrete islands (there for some still unexplained reason), and then compete with delivery trucks, pedestrians, people hauling skis from the drop off lot (that you just dropped off), and other hotel traffic to make a u-turn to head back to Gothic Road.
Sound bad enough? It gets worse. When exiting during busy times, you can only make a RIGHT turn on Gothic, even though you want to go south back to Crested Butte. You will then have to travel north (merging with tour buses and other hotel traffic that also want to go south, but can’t) for a hundred yards or so to enter a round-about (round-about!?) to circle around, trying to merge with oncoming local traffic and town buses from the north, and then head back south on Gothic.
If there are any of you out there that remembers the old interchange of I-70 and I-25 in Denver, you know why it was once called the "Mouse Trap." That was a piece of cake compared to this skier drop off plan. Want to turn left into the skier drop off lot coming down Gothic Road from the north? Forget about it. And other parts of the MSN plan equally have problems, but it would take up too much space in this letter to talk about them all. But there is hope.
I said the meeting surprised me, and it took the form of the many challenging questions, concerns and comments that came from the Planning Commission members. Notably, Dusty Demerson, Chairman of the Commission, seemed equally incredulous (my interpretation of his facial expressions) at this insane (my word) skier drop off plan, and kindly asked if it could be placed elsewhere. Many of the people in attendance at the meeting informed the Commission members that if skier drop off "poaching" was a problem before, armed guards are going to be needed to keep them at bay now!
I was also impressed at all the board members concerns and questions about building heights (80 feet?!) and the loss of views of our mountains. Although the CBMR planners will disagree with me, traffic studies that have been done on the Gothic Road corridor seemed out of touch, outdated, naive and do not adequately take in to account increased future North Village traffic and the construction traffic that will be beating up the road for the next 20 years. Gothic Road will be the scene of many traffic jams and snarls in the busy seasons. To make a bad traffic situation worse, during busy days when all available regular ski parking is full, an overflow lot is planned—at the Prospect junction by the Gold Link lift, on the other side of the mountain! These people will have to travel the full length of paved Gothic to get there, increasing the pressure on an already overcrowded road.
Long-time Mountain resident, Jim Sharpe, made an excellent argument for placing it at another intercept location. He also said to the Commission, "It is already hard to get to Mt. Crested Butte, so it shouldn’t be hard for people to stay here." Amen.
As I said, the MSN planners will disagree with me. But you can’t manufacture dirt. Gothic Road can only be widened so much (if at all in some places), unless you want to knock down houses on either side of it in the future. Thankfully, the PC also seemed to think the traffic situation needs further study. I hope they will delay approving the project until these additional studies are done, or revisited. In closing, I would like to thank the Planning Commission for their genuine concerns about the MSN project and hope they continue to hold the planners feet to the fire. There have been many pleas from involved residents (most recently in the Crested Butte News by Susan Eskew) to attend these planning meetings and voice your concerns. I would like to add my plea. Right now everything is on paper, and all it takes is the Planning Commission and an eraser to make modifications. After the bulldozers start to run, it will be too late.
The next (and last) meeting for public input to the Planning Commission on the Mountaineer Square North project will be on December 19, 5 p.m., at the Mt. Crested Butte town hall. It is in your best interest to attend. Trust me you will be as wide-eyed at the meeting as I was.
Mt. Crested Butte