Town Council extends building moratorium within watershed

Measure to end May 1

The Crested Butte Town Council voted unanimously to extend a moratorium preventing development within the town’s watershed, during a regular meeting on Tuesday, January 22, despite opposition from Irwin property owners and Lucky Jack mining proponents.




Town attorney John Belkin asked the Town Council to extend the temporary moratorium five months so Town staff could finish revisions to the Town’s outdated watershed ordinance.
Town manager Susan Parker and Belkin have been consulting with outside legal counsel on revising the ordinance since last summer. Belkin said a draft of the new watershed ordinance should be presented to the council shortly.
The council agreed additional time was needed and approved Ordinance No. 2 Series 2008. The moratorium originally took effect in August.
State statute grants municipalities the authority to review developments located within its watershed that have the potential to pollute local waterways.
The ordinance states that the town’s existing watershed ordinance, adopted in 1978, is inadequate in regulating the protection of the environment and the public health, safety and general welfare of residents and visitors to town.
The moratorium restricts all development, defined as any activity that disturbs or modifies the condition of the surface or subsurface land or water in the town’s watershed.
The moratorium affects areas such as Irwin Townsite and Kebler Pass Road but will not include permits in Crested Butte. Some Irwin residents have expressed concern the ordinance unduly prevents them from routine development and is preventing property owners from conducting real estate transactions.
Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz said, “The ordinance is not targeted to stop a large development in Irwin, nor is it directed at any project.”
Lucky Jack project developers have also expressed concern about the moratorium. Community liaison Perry Anderson spoke on behalf of mining companies at the public hearing on January 22. Anderson gave both oral and written comments. The proposed Lucky Jack molybdenum mining project is located on Mt. Emmons, and falls within the Town’s watershed.
He said the Town has not been forthcoming with information on moratorium and the mining companies are concerned with the potential impacts the ordinance may have future extraction activities.
“We still do not understand why the Crested Butte Town Council believes the moratorium extension contemplated by Ordinance 2-Series 2008 should be imposed,” Anderson told the council. “What is the ‘emergency’ requiring a prohibition on new development within the watershed district?”
Crested Butte resident Chris Benson asked the council if it was able to update the watershed ordinance without the moratorium and questioned why the council originally pursued an emergency ordinance.
“Is there another way than this shotgun approach? Are there any other avenues or venues that would be able to buy more time?” Benson asked.
Belkin explained this ordinance was not an emergency ordinance similar to the previous ordinance passed in late 2007, and proper public notice was given. He added the extension was needed because of the process to review the proposed new watershed ordinance would be involved.
“Once we provide the draft, the council will need time to review it and present it to the public for comments,” Belkin said. “You don’t want this council to approve this ordinance in two meetings—it’s not a process that can be done similar to a liquor license approval.”
The council approved the ordinance, which went into effect five days following the approval. The ordinance extending the moratorium will expire on May 1, unless it is extended for a third time. 

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