Another last minute memo stalls annexation

Next meeting now November 11

A short but emotional meeting Tuesday evening, October 27, has put the Foothills annexation sketch plan more in limbo than ever. The Crested Butte Planning Commission members made it clear in no uncertain terms that the developer’s habit of springing unexpected documents on them at the last minute frustrated them. 





The annexation process for what is now a 44-acre proposal with approximately 158 units has been going on for about a year and a half.
In this case, a memo titled “Resolution of Open Items” from Fairways GH Paradise LLC concerning discussion over the old town dump, Payment-in-Lieu (PIL) fees, and affordable housing issues was received by town staff less than two hours before the scheduled 5 p.m. work session on Tuesday. That meeting was expected to delve into five hours of detail and end with direction from the planning commissioners.
The memo was sent via email to town attorney John Belkin. Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker and town planner John Hess took an initial look at it at about 3:20 p.m. and both determined they didn’t have time to do the appropriate research needed to respond to the proponent’s issues and suggestions.
The latest round of negotiations over the clean-up of the old town dump started with a lunch meeting between town staff and the developers last Thursday afternoon. By Friday at noon, the town had sent a proposal to the developers for cleaning up the dump and setting PIL fees. Basically, by calculating PIL fees at $4.93 a square foot and including $500,000 for infrastructure costs to the Paradise Park affordable housing block 79, the staff determined Foothills owed the town $1,898,234.
The $4.93 figure is halfway between land values in 2004 when the Crested Butte Area Plan was approved and the $7.74 per square foot the developers paid for the Trampe parcel.
The town suggested deferring the $1.9 million in payments if the proponents agreed to front the money to pay for the clean up of the dump, which is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $2 million. The town suggested the money would be repaid through a voluntary 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Fee imposed by the developers on Foothills land transactions.
That would be in addition to a separate 1 percent RETF earmarked for “sustainability.” It had been estimated that it could take approximately 18 years to recoup the $1.9 million through the one-percent fee.
The Foothills memo from the Fairways LLC sent Tuesday afternoon disagreed with the $4.93 PIL figure and argued it should instead be based on 2004 land values of $2.13 per square foot. Among other objections, the response rejected the additional 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Fee, and suggested using a community involvement plan to deal with the dump clean-up.
Mayor pro tem and acting Planning Commission chairperson Leah Williams opened the meeting and made it clear she was tired of receiving such last-minute documents. She suggested immediately cancelling the work session.
A very upset commissioner Reed Betz told the proponents “The last-minute memos are ridiculous. A page-and-a-half of new conditions that the staff hasn’t had time to review is unacceptable,” he said. “I’m shaking up here. I thought we had made a lot of progress last week and thought we were close to a point of moving forward. Now we are at a point where we should cancel this meeting. It’s pathetic.”
Commissioner Skip Berkshire expressed disappointment as well. “We can’t be expected to make instantaneous determinations of the merits put forth,” he said. “This type of action just ratchets back the process. I agree with Reed that we were making good progress, but we can’t be asked to look this over and come to conclusions.”
Williams added that she too had felt the town and developers were close and ready to move forward with some sort of a deal. “We were close. But to receive this today when we did is really upsetting.”
Foothills attorney Jim Starr tried to interject. “It wasn’t intended to go to the council or Planning Commission,” he said.
“Well, it did,” responded Williams before trying to cut off all further comment, despite the constantly raised hand of Starr.
“We didn’t get the town memo until Friday afternoon,” said Foothills attorney Aaron Huckstep, referring to the town’s proposal concerning the dump clean-up and PIL fees.
“We are having these meetings early and at a pace to accommodate you,” responded Williams. “I’m not pleased you are sending us documents an hour and a half before the meeting.”
“Can we withdraw this [memo] proposal?” asked Foothills principal David Stringfield.
“The changes are not super-significant and they are easy to understand,” added Huckstep.
“I don’t want to hear it,” said Williams.
The commission then set Wednesday, November 11 as the date of the next meeting. A work session is scheduled for 5 p.m., to be followed by a public hearing at 7:30 p.m.
Starr, Huckstep and Stringfield were stunned by the action.
Earlier this month, Stringfield had suggested that a sketch plan decision was needed by October 20 in order for the proponents to maintain financing. It will now be mid-November at the earliest before the town Planning Commission considers such action.
“Frankly, I’m not sure where we are right now,” Huckstep said after the meeting was adjourned. “But I’m hopeful the process will continue and without these types of miscommunications.”

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