Status gives the subdivision authority over development
For Chris Behan and Al Smith, the Gunnison County Board of Commissioners’ final approval of the Special Area Regulations for Crested Butte South on Tuesday, September 2 warranted a giant sigh of relief.
“I’m really, really glad that this is over. I’m really grateful to the county commissioners for pulling this off and getting this done,” said Smith, president of the Crested Butte South Property Owner’s Association.
With the Special Area Regulations in place, the association’s Design Review Board can almost exclusively bear the responsibility of approving residential and commercial development in Crested Butte South, a subdivision six miles south of Crested Butte.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, but we’ve been working a long time to get there and there were a bunch of people waiting in the wings to build, until we got [the Special Area Regulations] in place,” said Behan, manager of the Crested Butte South POA.
In fact, immediately after leaving the meeting, Behan was planning to call the developer of a six-unit multi-use commercial building that has been waiting until the regulations were passed before starting work on the project.
In all, Behan says there are at least four projects that were waiting on the approval of the regulations before getting started in Crested Butte South. At least one has been waiting for a year and a half.
After revising the document 20 times under the guidance of the county Planning Commission and Julie Ann Woods of the Elk Mountain Planning Group, the regulations were considered by the Board of County Commissioners for final approval August 5.
But several issues were brought up by county attorney David Baumgarten, who wanted to separate the parts of the regulations that pertained only to the internal covenants of Crested Butte South from those that would be on file with the county.
Over several weeks, Baumgarten worked with Behan to eliminate the unnecessary parts of the document, trimming it from its original 59 pages down to 11.
“What we’ve been able to do is take a document that was totally inclusionary and take everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary out of it,” said Baumgarten.
Crested Butte South is unincorporated in Gunnison County, which means both the subdivision’s Property Owners Association and the County must review and approve building plans. Many of those who have tried to get a project approved under the previous model complained that the two processes contain many redundancies.
“The duplicate processes are a pain and 90 percent of the people who have gone through it for a commercial project will tell you that they wouldn’t do it again,” said Smith, who also owns Camp 4 Coffee.
The regulations now allow the Crested Butte South Design Review Board, which would be created by the regulations, to be the final authority in approving residential and commercial development inside the subdivision limits.
If an applicant disagrees with a decision made by the board, they can no longer go straight to the county level on appeal. Now an appeal will go to the POA board of directors, then to county planning director Joanne Williams, and then on to the Board of County Commissioners.
“The appeal process is very explicit. The language may be short but the concepts are rich. What they say internally will stand unless the paper trail doesn’t follow the decision they made. Crested Butte South is becoming a mature governing body. That is the philosophy that informs this document,” said Baumgarten.
While there’s a widely held view that becoming a special area is the first step toward autonomy, Behan says there is still a long way to go before people vote in favor of becoming a town.
But a convincing argument can be made through building a commercial district, which being a special area will help Crested Butte South do. Behan and Smith say they hope to make the case for incorporation as a way of generating revenue through the collection of sales tax, which they cannot do without becoming a municipality.
“We need to make things easier for people to live and to build and have businesses here. The goal of this whole thing was to help people. We want to make it easier for people to live and thrive in Crested Butte South,” said Behan.
Behan said that the straightforward process of being approved for a commercial development in Crested Butte South is an asset.
“I think our job is to make the process more consistent, more reliable and remove some of that uncertainty so if someone comes to us with a plan that fits in our box, we can say, ‘That’s great—we’ll have you through the process and building in two or three months instead of two or three years,’” Behan said.