Annexation proposal in Mt. Crested Butte draws public fire

Too much density on the edge of town?

The public came out in force last week in Mt. Crested Butte to voice their concerns about an annexation proposal that includes high-density housing on the northwest corner of town.  But due to a mix up in the planning process, the town council needed to pass a separate resolution of compliance first, and must hold the public hearing again in March.



Brush Creek Holdings LLC is proposing the annexation of an 8.9 acre parcel of land, northwest of Mt. Crested Butte and adjacent to Snodgrass Mountain. Brush Creek Holdings president Gary Garland said the proponents had come to the town approximately one year ago with a different development proposal for the property. There was a similar public hearing and that proposal was approved as eligible for annexation, but the annexation process was never finished.  
When the latest annexation proposal was received in December, the town scheduled a public hearing on February 3 to consider the parcel’s eligibility for annexation. But by state law the town council must first pass a resolution finding the annexation petition in compliance with state codes. The town council ended up passing that resolution after the public hearing on February 3, but they had to re-schedule the public hearing again in March.
Garland said the development plans were changed in response to Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s push to expand lift-accessed terrain onto Snodgrass. The original annexation proposal was for eight single-family home lots and a duplex.  Garland said the new plan called for all multi-family home sites and a total of 42 units. “This (property) could be lift served. That’s why we’re going with higher density,” Garland said.    
Mt. Crested Butte resident Jim Sharpe said the high density wasn’t appropriate for the location. Citing the town’s Community Plan, he said, “Zoning should transition from most intensive to least intensive.” Sharpe said the earlier annexation proposal followed those guidelines, but the latest did not.   
Garland replied, “The community plan is not town code.  It’s a guiding document, pure and simple.” Garland agreed that radiating out from high density to low density was the normal rule, “but when you have ski lifts or are expecting other things that will drive growth you can change that.”  He noted that the resort’s current base area has high density and borders national forest.  
Sharpe also asked Garland to explain the public benefit of annexing the parcel.  
“We all know Mt. Crested Butte needs more warm beds,” Garland said. “It’s what our tax base is all about. We need more warm beds, we need to fill them up, and that’s how the ski area is going to survive.”
Mt. Crested Butte resident Bob Goettge agreed with Sharpe that the proposed density of the annexation parcel was inappropriate according to the town’s Community Plan.  He also said the proposal lacked any open space.
Even though the Community Plan is not an official rule document, Goettge said town code requires that any annexation proposal must be in full compliance with the town’s “master plan”. Goettge said the Community Plan took the place of the town’s former Master Plan. The Community Plan was based in part on the results of a town wide survey. In that survey, Goettge said the respondents valued recreational opportunities, parks, trails and open space.  
Goettge said he was sometimes critical of CBMR’s development plans, but he complimented their efforts at preserving open space. He said the current (unofficial) North Village proposal, the proposed Promontory development (which is adjacent to the potential annexation parcel), and the Prospect subdivision to the east, average 50 percent open space. “That says something about this community and that developer,” Goettge said.
High Country Citizens’ Alliance board member Sue Navy said her organization was concerned about the impact of high density housing next to a conservation easement that will be part of CBMR’s Promontory development. The 44 acre Preserve conservation area was created through a deal between CBMR and HCCA in 2004.  
Alliance for Clean Energy coordinator Chris Menges asked the town to consider adopting a “net-zero” building policy. Menges said his group was not endorsing or opposing any annexation proposal, but simply wanted to suggest an energy planning strategy. Menges noted that Mt. Crested Butte has made a commitment to reduce its carbon emissions.  
Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory director Ian Billick said the lab was “concerned about growth pushing out toward Gothic. There’s been a lot of work to create a buffer between Mt. Crested Butte and Gothic.” RMBL does sensitive scientific research nearby on the local environment.  Billick said he believed the parcel was appropriate for annexation and a high density, but asked the council to consider whether the proposed density was too high. “It’s not clear to us that density makes sense there,” he said.  Since Garland was requesting the higher density based on the potential for putting lifts on Snodgrass, Billick suggested the town could make the increased density contingent upon CBMR’s development of Snodgrass.  
With no further public comments, mayor William Buck asked if they should hold the public hearing open.
Town attorney Rod Landwehr said the council would have to schedule a new hearing. “It wasn’t properly noticed.  This public hearing didn’t actually happen,” he said.  
Landwehr explained that the council first needed to pass a resolution finding the annexation petition in compliance. He presented the council such a resolution, and they unanimously approved it. The public hearing concerning the parcel’s eligibility for annexation was re-scheduled to Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. Landwehr said the written comments they had received that evening would be included in the public record for the next hearing. 

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