Town lays out specific annexation parameters

Did the 3-D Foothills fly-by show clustering or a disconnect?

The Crested Butte town planning commission members appear to be reading from the same chapter if not the same page for what they want in a possible annexation just north of town. They envision an annexation that adds about 100 units to Crested Butte, is “sustainable”, is limited to the land directly next to the current town border, doesn’t impinge on the cemetery, and potentially adds amenities to the town but doesn’t change the character of the community. The proponents want the town decision makers to keep reading and have an open mind for a larger, more expansive development.



Looking at the proposed 68 acre “Foothills of Crested Butte” north of town, the planning commission, which is made up of the town council members, specifically told the developers Monday evening they preferred a development that was contained to the portion of land between the current north border of town across from the Gas Cafe and the southern side of the town cemetery. That area is comprised of approximately 30 acres, of which two and a half acres belong to the town. The commission seemed to feel that a density of approximately 100 units was appropriate for the development.
The Foothills proponents had been asking for a development that wrapped around the cemetery to the Moon Ridge subdivision border. The latest plan called for basically three clusters of home sites with a total of 263 units. That is down from the close to 400 units originally proposed.
In a public meeting Monday night, all the planning commissioners agreed that the land contiguous to town was appropriate for some sort of development. But the commission wanted to make sure that any new development would not add any burden to the town. All the commissioners expressed a dislike for the north and northeast clusters of proposed housing. “To me, it doesn’t look appropriate as part of Crested Butte,” commented planning commissioner Leah Williams.
“I agree,” said fellow board member Skip Berkshire. “I’ve been troubled from the beginning with the large number of units being proposed. The impact on Gothic Road in terms of traffic would be huge. The number of units impacts wetlands, traffic, open space, everything. The logical extension of town flows through that southern half of the property. The east and north are appendages.”
Commissioner Kimberly Metsch agreed with that sentiment. “One of the nice things about the current town is you don’t need a car. That won’t work for the people who live in the northern parts of this proposal.”
Commission member Billy Rankin also felt allowing houses to creep up past the cemetery wasn’t appropriate. “That could look like trickle development all the way up to Mt. Crested Butte,” he said.
“I’m concerned with the whole kit-and-caboodle,” said Chairman Alan Bernholtz. “Personally, I don’t like the east development and the north is too disconnected.”
As for the number of units, Berkshire said the southern portion “lended itself to density reflecting the historic Crested Butte. Maybe we can diddle with stuff and make it work for everyone. But it makes sense to replicate the density of town. I think there are great possibilities for that southern part. A hundred to 110 units look good to me.”
Commissioner Dan Escalante said he thought a dense development was okay for those 30 acres. “I’m not afraid of density but I want it to be intelligent,” he said. “It needs to be thought out.”
Commissioner Reed Betz said it was important to maintain the character of town and he suggested a density of about 100 units.
Bernholtz said he wasn’t sure of what the exact number of units would be but didn’t want to squeeze 200 units in there. He also wanted to make sure there were amenities like a river walk and ball fields. “We are lucky our current infrastructure is hanging in there,” he said. “We can barely maintain what we have. I don’t want to set up the future of the town in a bad way and not be able to handle the needs of the town.”
Speaking for the proponents, Aaron Huckstep, an attorney with Starr and Associates, said the group has been listening to the concerns of the town staff, elected officials and the public. “We have made some major changes to the plan. We’ve included the town land where the old dump was,” he said. “We reduced the number of units near the cemetery. We’ve extended the town grid. Our objective is to open the whole area along the Slate River to the public. Remember this is the whole plan. We would start with the southwest corner and five to eight years later move to the east portion, then move up to the east and the north. It won’t all pop up at once.”
Huckstep said that based on recent growth models, the proposed 263 units would accommodate about ten years of growth. He said the latest plan is sensitive to wetland issues in the 68 acres, is sustainable in nature, provides ongoing funding for sustainability estimated at two to four million dollars over a decade through a 1 percent real estate transfer fee, and provides 105 affordable housing unit opportunities. He said about two miles of trails would be built immediately. He said the developers would clean up the town dump. He promised that amenity items were on the table to be discussed.
The proponents’ sustainability consultant Dan Richardson with Schmueser, Gordon Meyer (SGM) Engineers told the commission that the idea was to identify appropriate places to develop in the annexation and make that as dense as possible without causing harm. “We think we found a balance with housing and the carrying capacity of the land,” he said.
Developer and co-owner of the project Cliff Goss told the commission the development would not burden the current town and he reminded the commission that “growth will come to the valley. If that growth isn’t placed here it will go somewhere else,” he said. “If you look at it in phases, it will be driven by the market. If there is no growth, there will be no development. The town isn’t at risk in that situation. To get to the north end as we have proposed will take 15 to 20 years in today’s economic reality. Think about it. Things will change here again and so many good things can come from this.”
Goss also said the gap between the southern part of the proposed development and the northern part was about the same area as the space between the southeast entrance to town along the highway from Stepping Stones to the tennis courts. ”You need to look not just at today but at the future. It is forward thinking.”
Bernholtz allowed the public to chime in (see page 14) and while some members of the public showed lukewarm support for the idea of annexation, no one spoke in favor of the current proposal.
Sunlit Architecture’s Gary Hartman ended the presentation with a somewhat 3-diminsional fly-by screen presentation from Google Earth. It gave a feel of the proposal in context of the current town. That brought the comment by Bernholtz that the north end of the proposal looked extremely disconnected to the current town.
“If you think of the historic development patterns of the town, remember that the area on the east side of Gothic Road was open and a lot of it was irrigated horse pasture not that long ago,” Hartman said.
Lead attorney Jim Starr told Bernholtz that the proponents had tried to cluster the areas with housing after listening to comments from the town and public.
The next meeting concerning the proposed Foothills annexation is scheduled for February 23 at 6 p.m. in the town council chambers. The topic will focus on staff answers to planning commission concerns.

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