Town residents see new annexation plan

Developer pitches Foothills

The proponents of an annexation proposed to the north of town say the development will be built as if it were an extension of Crested Butte, right down to 15 mile-per-hour speed limits.




On Thursday, January 17, Crested Butte area residents had a chance to view and comment on early plans for the Foothills annexation proposal, formerly known as Paradise Crested Butte.
The annexation is being proposed by Fairways GH Paradise, LLC, and involves a 71-acre tract of land immediately north of Crested Butte, bordered on the west by State Highway 135, to the north by the Moon Ridge subdivision, and to the east by the recreation path. The Crested Butte Cemetery is near the center of the property and the Slate River transects the parcel.
During Thursday’s presentation, Fairways GH Paradise president Cliff Goss said the proposed annexation has been in the works for 18 months. A pre-annexation application was submitted to the Town of Crested Butte on June 1, 2007, giving some preliminary details of the project as well as affirming the parcel’s eligibility for annexation. The pre-annexation application is the first part of the Town’s four-step process for annexation proposals.
Thursday’s open house was the public’s first look at street-level details the annexation proponents are considering, although they have not yet submitted an official annexation petition to the Town. Fairways GH Paradise hired local design firms Rock Creek Studios and Sunlit Architecture to create the plans.
Rock Creek Studios’ principal planner Dave Michaelson said the purpose of the meeting was to take public comments on the preliminary plans and find out what the important issues were before the plans are officially sent to the Town.
"This is the most critical decision Crested Butte will ever make," Michaelson said. "We have not made our (annexation) application, primarily because we wanted feedback from you first."
Sunlit Architecture owner Gary Hartman said the plans were based on a community-friendly design. "This is about vitality. It’s about the street frontage, about urban core and having everything integrated," Hartman said.
The developer created a list of community-friendly principles to strive for when creating the annexation plans, Hartman said. These included walkability (easy access to public transportation, sidewalks and pedestrian connections), and connectivity (limited dead-ends or cul de sacs).
Other principles included mixed-use properties (a mix of homes, office space and public amenities), mixed housing (single-family homes could be next to a triplex), increased density (protecting open space and driving down cost) and sustainability (more east/west lot orientations for solar energy benefits). "All of these principles we tried to make evident in the designs," Hartman said.
On paper, the annexation is divided by the Slate River into two parts of approximately 40-acres. Goss said there is an equal division of units between each side. However, he said the South 40 will be denser, the core of the development, and is envisioned as an extension of the north edge of town. Goss said the North 40 will be more of a traditional neighborhood, like Meridian Lake Park. 
According to Hartman, the South 40 has the only commercial spaces in the development. He noted that residential units would likely be smaller, with more affordable housing options as well as rentals.
Hartman provided details of the South 40 on a lot-by-lot basis. He presented plans showing how buildings would be oriented and what sort of features might be included on homes in this area, such as porches that are allowed to encroach onto building setbacks, accessory dwellings on the side of a lot, connections between accessory dwelling/garages and primary residences, and on-street parking spaces.
Hartman said the North 40 is based on more of a traditional neighborhood design and includes single-family lots, low-density multi-family lots, a village green in the center, and several pocket parks. The other entrance to the North 40 would be via Moon Ridge Lane. Hartman did not present lot-level details for this section.
Both sides of the proposed annexation include some "special development" areas. According to Hartman, these are intended for uses like a community center or fire hall expansion, but there were no definite plans. Three special development areas are reserved for residential projects.
The Enclave is a special development area in the North 40 that calls for high-end single-family houses near the entrance to Moon Ridge Lane. Hartman says the Enclave represents an agreement between the developers and the Moon Ridge homeowners.
Another special development in the North 40 is the Meadows townhomes, and nearby in the South 40 are the River townhomes. Hartman said these were considered special areas because of their close proximity to wetlands, and special precautions would have to be taken in constructing them.
In their pre-annexation application, the developers said the North 40 parcel is still under contract, and may not close until 2009. Thus, the proponents did not intend to submit an annexation petition for this parcel until the sale closes. In the meantime, both sides of the proposed annexation were included in the presentation to get a better scope of the overall project.
Following the developer’s presentation, the floor was opened to the public for a question and answer session.
Crested Butte resident Sue Navy asked what the anticipated population growth was. According to the Crested Butte area plan, in December 2003 there were 1,537 people in town and 961 housing units.
Goss said they did not have a projection for the total amount of people, as it was still too early to determine how many units would be approved. Goss said there were 400 units proposed, and a safe guess would be to count 2.5 people per unit (1,000). Goss said there was a potential for more than 200 additional units as accessory dwellings in the entire project.
Skyland resident Mike Potoker asked what the density per acre would be.
Goss said the South 40 would have density similar to a section of town near Whiterock Avenue and First Street, while the North 40 would have about six lots per acre.
Potoker then asked what portion of the units would be deed-restricted as affordable housing.
Goss said the number of deed-restricted units would be determined later. "We have all these different things to negotiate with the town. That will be one of those items," he said.
Potoker said Gunnison County is considering housing guidelines that would call for 15 percent to 20 percent deed-restricted housing. "Are you going to come somewhere near that?" he asked.
Goss said, "It is our intent to do everything required, and then some." Aside from the number of deed-restricted units, Goss said he intended to actually build a portion of the affordable housing dwellings, and said he felt that was a positive thing to consider.
Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge asked about the square footage of commercial space.
Goss said, "As far as retail, very little if any. We want to create housing units. We want a population base that can support Elk Avenue."
Crested Butte resident Harvey Castro asked what other public amenities would be included. "Is that little spot for the recreation center the only thing you’re offering?" he asked.
Along the same lines, Crested Butte resident Larry Mosher said more services would be needed to match the population growth. "In one case, the population could grow 50 percent. In the other it could double," he said.
Goss said the proposed community center was one of several possibilities, as well as included pocket parks and open space. Goss also said there was a space reserved for a fire hall if the Crested Butte Fire Protection District chose to relocate.
Goettge asked how much of the annexation would be devoted to parks and recreation. He said the state’s guidelines call for approximately 14 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.
Michaelson said the inclusion of more parks would come out in negotiations with the town. "There is always going to be this public tug between what we’re bringing to the table and what the level of existing services are," he said.
Potoker said he felt addressing the housing needs of the community was more important than park space. "I don’t think it’s the right project for open space," Potoker said. "I think this is the town’s last great opportunity to have affordable housing in the right place… If we don’t have it here, it’s going to be in Skyland or Larkspur or Crested Butte South."
Michaelson agreed and said solving the housing dilemma was the developer’s main concern. He also said Fairways GH Paradise’s construction priority of affordable housing units was a big issue to consider. "Every day you don’t build a unit, the ability to build square footage in the ground increases exponentially. Recreational open spaces are important, but people are every bit as important," he said.
Another audience member asked about the traffic impact of an additional 400 units being served by Gothic Road.
Principal engineer Jerry Burgess of Schmueser Gordon Meyer said his firm was in the process of doing a comprehensive traffic study for the annexation proponents. He said the firm is also working on traffic studies for development projects in Mt. Crested Butte and can consider the traffic impact of those developments as well.
Based on the number of units proposed in the current annexation, and the future plans in Mt. Crested Butte, Burgess said by 2017 the Four-way Stop in Crested Butte would reach its capacity.
"You may need a traffic signal, or an increased public transportation system," Burgess suggested as solutions. He said a bypass around town would be the best solution, but it was not in the cards for the annexation.
Castro said they needed to include the traffic impacts to Seventh and Eighth Streets as well, because as Gothic Road gets busier more vehicles would use these roads as alternates.
Finally, Castro asked if the public would get a chance to see three-dimensional renderings of the project.
Goss said, "Yes, but further down the road. The capacities are here to do those kind of fly-throughs. We’ll have them."
Goss said they planned on submitting a petition for annexation to the town within the next 60 days. He said build-out could take anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on economics, "but as soon as we can, we’re going to start." 

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