Town ratchets down requirement for new annexation to be carbon-neutral

“Shoot for the moon…”

The proposed Foothills of Crested Butte annexation continues to plod along. The developers and town Planning Commission, which is comprised of the Town Council members, met Thursday, June 4 to touch base.



The planning commissioners discussed whether or not requiring a so-called carbon-positive development was realistic. In the end, they said the development should be carbon-neutral, which would require that all carbon produced by the development would somehow be offset. A carbon-positive development would actually offset more CO2 than is produced by the development.
“Do you still want them to do a carbon-positive development?” town planner John Hess asked the commissioners. “It is difficult for this project to do all the things we want.”
“You mean we aren’t going to save the planet with this project?” asked commissioner Skip Berkshire.
“I’ve been thinking about it and I’m not sure there is even a carbon-neutral project anywhere in the country,” said commissioner Dan Escalante. “It is probably asking too much of the developer to be carbon-positive.”
Commissioner Leah Williams agreed with Escalante. “I’d like it to be carbon-neutral but we have to define what that means,” she said.
Commissioner Reed Betz wanted more. “Carbon-neutral is nice but we are all getting to a place where that isn’t good enough anymore,” he said. “I think it is appropriate to go the extra step and go carbon-positive. It is really important. Shoot for the moon… and maybe you’ll get lucky and land on a star. The opportunity is there.”
Commission chairman Alan Bernholtz didn’t think requiring a carbon-positive development was a fair mandate. “The town is not even carbon-neutral,” he said. “I think it is fair to have them be carbon-neutral but not beyond. If they go beyond that, then great, but requiring them to be carbon-positive doesn’t feel right.”
Betz said the town was moving in a carbon-neutral and even carbon-positive direction with the eventual implementation of the Energy Action Plan.
Berkshire agreed with Bernholtz. “I think you have to walk before you can run,” he stated. “We need small successes first and a carbon-neutral development is a good challenge.”
“The Energy Action Plan heads us toward being carbon-neutral, not carbon-positive,” Bernholtz said. “How can we ask others for that standard if we don’t apply it to ourselves. How can we even accomplish that?”
“Move the town from 9,000 feet to Arizona,” suggested Berkshire.
Foothills attorney Jim Starr said that it is actually more difficult to have a carbon-neutral development with lower densities and the Planning Commission has slashed the original density proposed by the developers. The latest Foothills proposal has a density of about 150 units.
Starr reminded the commission that the proposed 1 percent real estate transfer fee in the Foothills would be collected with every lot sale “and could ultimately collect millions of dollars to go toward sustainability and helping to make the current town carbon-positive.”
Bernholtz emphasized he didn’t want “to be talking out of both sides of our mouth. If we do an enclosed ice rink for example, it could never be carbon-positive, so I don’t think we should require it of others.”
The direction the commissioners gave town staff was to aim for a carbon-neutral development requirement. Commissioners Kimberly Metsch and Billy Rankin were not at the meeting. Overall, the commission wants to see some specifics of how to get to a carbon-neutral Foothills development at the sketch-plan phase.
The commissioners also asked Hess to calculate what the six acres of land east of the cemetery would be worth toward the required 312-acre open space requirement that would come with the annexation. The developers have said they could bring those six acres of land into the annexation and not develop it, but want some extra credit for doing that.
Hess’ initial calculations based on the price of the land paid by the developers compared to the prices of open space purchases in the last nine years concluded the six acres of land adjacent to the cemetery was worth about 91 acres of open space purchased somewhere else in the valley. The commissioners agreed that that land would be worth more than normal for open space requirements given its location. There was no final decision on what the commissioners would agree to count it as, so Hess was sent back to his calculator.
The two-hour meeting touched on several other subjects including:
—how to fairly trade some town land with the developers;
—how much credit the developers should get for tackling the job of cleaning up the old town dump;
—limiting the access areas onto Gothic Road to three primary entrances and exits and working with Gunnison County officials on the issue;
—how much paved sidewalks should count toward a trails requirement;
—whether a so-called micro-lot should be subject to all town extractions;
—moving the discharge pipe from the town sewer plant away from a proposed river park;
—keeping the overall development pedestrian and bike friendly; and
—some snow storage issues.
The discussion will continue later in June.

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