Goal is for a “carbon-neutral” neighborhood
A new Foothills of Crested Butte annexation plan that appears less dense and more “sustainable” than the previous application is being put in front of the town of Crested Butte.
Consideration of the proposed annexation has been on hiatus since last fall, after a series of sometimes contentious public meetings. But a new plan, with a much more green tint to it, has appeared back in town hall.
Developers Kent Hill and Cliff Goss, along with Dan Richardson, a senior energy consultant with Schmueser-Gordon-Meyer, an engineering firm, met with members of town staff last week and kicked around some new ideas. The developers are asking that the project come in under more strict sustainable regulations than those currently on the town books and have suggested some ideas as far-reaching as perhaps providing land and facilities for growing food, possibly building a field of solar panels, and even having a “neighborhood-owned PHEV [plug-in hybrid electric vehicle] and charging station as part of a car sharing program.”
“In our last meetings we heard clearly that the council and the town is committed to being good stewards of the land,” Hill said. “Dan has helped us understand what opportunities are there and helped us bake them into the plan.”
Hill and Goss said the goal of the Foothills was now to be a “carbon-neutral” neighborhood. They want the houses situated to be as energy-efficient as possible through passive solar opportunities; they want Foothills to be pedestrian-friendly so vehicle use is cut down; they want to make construction waste minimal and incorporate “appropriate recycling/composting facilities capable of meeting the needs for all units.”
In a summary of their new application, the developers included green ideas. “Achieving the goal of an environmentally sustainable neighborhood will require bold commitments,” the summary states. “The developer proposes that the council consider the strategies below for the development of the Foothills of Crested Butte…”
The summary goes on to ask that the council make sure the design and construction of all the homes be of a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. The developers are suggesting a 1 percent real estate fee upon sales transfer that would be used for “sustainability.”
They want to potentially include a solar farm on the site to harvest energy. If that doesn’t work, they would be open to a solar, wind, or hydro-power project somewhere else in the area. While their summary states that the LEED Neighborhood Pilot Program is no longer accepting projects, the developer will work to meet the goals established for LEED neighborhoods.
“Given the clean energy economy we are moving toward, there are chances to actually grow jobs out of a project like this,” explained Richardson. “We want this to be a clean energy project but also economically viable. It’s not just throwing up some renewable energy and saying ‘we did it’ and moving on. It’s more than that.”
The developers touched on other issues as well.
“We heard that we should stay away from the wetlands and we are doing that,” said Hill. “There is now less than a half an acre of wetlands impacted with this new plan.”
Goss said there were a lot more trails included in the new plan and every wetland had at least a 25-foot buffer with development. He said the plan still includes some of the “micro” lots that are only about 2,400 square feet in size. The idea is that a smaller lot would be cheaper and allow for a smaller, more efficient house.
The new plan looks similar to the old plan for the development on the approximately 28 acres south of the Slate River. It continues the town grid and contains a mix of single family, multi-family and now some commercial lots. The area north of the river had a reduction in density and allows for a buffer by the cemetery and view corridors to the east and west.
Overall, Goss said there are now 173 total lots. Of those, 163 are meant for single-family residences. Six are multi-family lots allowing about 10 units per lot; two are commercial lots; and two are so-called “townhome” lots with up to six units each. A total of 234 units are proposed, excluding the commercial element and whatever required accessory dwellings will be in the plan. The previous plan proposed a total of 380 housing units on 240 total lots.
“By far the biggest change is in the north section,” explained Hill. “The old plan had 66 lots and the new plan contains just 34 lots.”
“The idea is to take advantage of every bit of solar available,” said Richardson. “From a sustainable neighborhood perspective, we first looked at protecting the site and then figured out the maximum density that was reasonable for this site. We looked at minimizing the impacts, whether it was storm runoff, waste or indoor air quality.
“We thought about creating the opportunity for people to work out of their homes, which saves energy through less vehicle use and less need for commercial spaces,” Richardson continued. “So we want to wire the homes properly. The idea is to look at every impact you can, minimize it and turn it into a benefit for the community.”
“We want the buildings to meet higher standards for energy efficiency than the town even requires,” said Hill. “There are good reasons for us to do that. It reflects the values of the community and so the people attracted here will want those types of houses. It will help us sell the project. This is an opportunity for this town to set a new standard.”
Richardson agreed the potential for a unique project is there. “Again, carbon neutrality means a lot of things. It is an ideal. Having on-site renewable energy like solar on every home can do things like provide jobs as well.”
According to their application summary, the developers want to work with the town to clean up the old dump. They want to provide open space in the area as a result of the annexation. They say they have more than enough parkland and trails under the new proposal and will work with the town to provide public land or negotiate a payment-in-lieu for such public land. They say density is now less than 3.5 units per acre, “which is well below the seven units per acre suggested by the LEED for Neighborhood Development Program.”
Richardson said initial reaction from the town staff was good. “They seemed supportive of the direction,” he said.
Town planner John Hess said it was too early to comment on the project. “We are reviewing the new information,” he said.
The annexation’s summary conclusion makes the case that this new plan is on the right track for Crested Butte. “Some people would like to believe we can stop change by stopping growth in Town. This is simply not true,” the conclusion states. “No growth does not lead to no change. The Foothills of Crested Butte has been planned and designed in a manner that is productive and responsible and also allows for change that benefits the Town both today and into the future. We believe you will agree and hope that the Town Council, Town Staff, and Planning Commission will find favor in this revised application.”
Hill hopes to have several meetings with staff in the next month and be back in front of the town Planning Commission (which is made up of the Town Council members) by the middle of