Fractional views

This week, a Mt. Crested Butte resident wrote me a letter, stating that she was puzzled by comments made by Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz in his letter to the editor last week. In his letter, Bernholtz defended the Town’s hard work on its new fractional ownership/ timeshare ordinance, which will be up for a decision on Monday, August 18. He also noted that Telluride didn’t like its timeshare ordinance and that town is in a “real mess,” presumably due to fractionalized units.
This resident wrote, “Having lived in Telluride, having worked at a fractional there, and considering that I still feel relatively in touch with happenings in Telluride, I was curious as to where that came from, as I was not aware of any problems with fractionals in Telluride.”
This enterprising resident called up Telluride town manager Frank Bell (who happens to be a former Crested Butte town manager) to ask him about his new hometown’s fractional ownership ordinance and what they think of it.
Imagine her surprise, and mine, when Bell informed her that they have no such ordinance on the books. In fact, Bell told me that he thinks such a measure would be highly controversial in that town, and preliminary conversations on it haven’t gotten far.
While it’s ironic Bernholtz was urging columnist John Norton to do his research in the same letter he discusses a non-existent ordinance, our mayor wasn’t being intentionally deceitful. Instead, it’s a classic game of “telephone” with misinformation getting passed along.
In any case, there is a problem in Telluride, Bell says. It’s the disturbing loss of “hot beds,” or hotel rooms, from the community. At least one hotel in Telluride is remodeling with plans to re-open its doors to sell units as “fractionals.” Telluride had concerns about it, according to Bell, and some citizens wish the town had a way to prevent hotel rooms from turning into condominiums. The town is struggling to balance the needs of developers—who say the traditional hotel doesn’t work in a seasonal economy—and the needs of the town, which relies on hotel-type beds to drive its economy.
In that respect, the Crested Butte Town Council is on the right track. If passed, Ordinance No. 8, Series 2008 will make sure that privately-owned units are available for public use (like hotel rooms), at least part of the year. The ordinance also ensures that fractional developments have other hotel-like amenities, like a front desk and meeting space, to encourage their use by non-owners. The ordinance also protects the character of Crested Butte’s neighborhoods by limiting timeshares to B2 and T zones.
Even with those worthy provisions, I haven’t been a huge fan of this ordinance. It contains provisions that I find too “Big Brother”—who in Town Hall has the expertise (not to mention time) to oversee a timeshare company’s marketing plan? Is it absolutely necessary that timeshare developers only give gifts that have a “relationship to the local Crested Butte area or economy”? (Could the developer give clients a bottle of wine made in California but bought in Gunnison?) With such a myriad of requirements, one starts to question whether this ordinance is enforceable.
Even with these eyebrow-raising measures, the Crested Butte Town Council has managed to strike a balance with its current ordinance. At least one group of developers says it can live with the ordinance as it has been drafted.
There’s only one provision that the developers say they cannot abide with. Town Council members Billy Rankin, Reed Betz and Dan Escalante want to add a mandate that a certain percentage of rooms are always available to be rented by the general public. Even if it can be accomplished, developers have warned this could make the property too difficult to market and sell.
Like Town Council members Skip Berkshire, Kimberly Metsch, and Leah Williams, I’m confident that the current ordinance gets what the town is after—a mechanism that encourages as many hotel-like rooms as we can get, without mandating a room percentage.
With the Town Council evenly split, mayor Bernholtz will likely cast the deciding vote on this issue. And I’m sure he’ll do his
—Aleesha Towns

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