CB Town Council approves Slate River Annexation preliminary plan

80 percent of the 14 acres will be town-owned

by Kristy Acuff

The Crested Butte Town Council unanimously approved the Slate River Annexation Preliminary Plan with a few minor conditions at a public hearing January 14. This moves the annexation of the 14-acre parcel north of town and west of the Slate River one step closer to becoming town property.

Council approved the preliminary plan on the condition that the applicant, Cypress Foothills LP, will draft an agreement that permits recreational use to continue along the Slate River where it passes near the newly annexed private property. In addition, town staff will work to draft a deed restriction prohibiting development in perpetuity for the wetlands area that lies between Gothic Road and the Slate River and will come under town ownership as part of the annexation.

Ultimately, if approved, the town will own nine out of the 10 parcels to be annexed, while developer Cypress Foothills LP will develop six single-family homes on the remaining parcel, which sits near the west bank of the Slate River. The Slate River is classified as a high-quality protected wetland, which prohibits any development within 100 feet of the banks.

“Basically out of the 14 acres being annexed, the town will own 80 percent of it,” explained town planner Bob Nevins. “Ten percent will be public roads and the remaining 10 percent will be privately owned and developed.”

Town staff presented council with a possible layout of the annexation that included a mix of utilitarian and recreational uses, including two acres dedicated to affordable housing. In addition, town staff proposed a 1.5-acre site for a new emergency services facility and two acres to build facilities for non-profits such as the Nordic Center or Gunnison Valley Hospital.

The annexation also includes a protection for a 1.2-acre wetland area that will be left undeveloped in perpetuity. Boaters wanting to access the Slate River will use a launch “ramp” located on town property as part of the annexation. Part of the annexation includes the capped landfill, which has potential for passive park space, according to Michael Yerman, community development director for Crested Butte.

“The two-acre public site in the annexation represents the last available public land that will be in town limits,” says Yerman, referring to the part of the annexation known as TP2. “There is a lot of potential there. It is a large space and could possibly house two non-profits in the valley.”

During the public hearing, which incidentally had exactly zero citizens in attendance, council members asked questions about boater access, parking and affordable housing.

“Do you think this configuration has maximized the potential for affordable housing?” council member Candice Bradley asked Yerman.

“Yes, absolutely,” answered Yerman. “And the way it is laid out, the housing will be situated nearest Gothic Road with access to the bus and public space, including the park.”

“The previous configuration showed a road wrapping to the boat launch but this shows the road much higher than the launch. How will people access the boat launch?” asked mayor Jim Schmidt.

“This still allows for boater access, just not parking at the launch,” answered Nevins. “People can drop their gear at the launch and then park on either side of Pyramid Avenue.”

“We do have concerns about the boater access along the Slate River banks,” Yerman said. “We plan to fence off much of that parcel and add interpretive signage that informs people about the wetland so they do not walk their boats across it, but use the launch area instead. It is a pristine, high-quality wetland and it would only take a few people and their dogs to ruin it. We are cognizant of that and want to guide all boater traffic to the launch area.”

“The plan calls for 50 units of affordable housing. Is that a set number? Is that based on R4 zoning?” asked council member Will Dujardin.

“That number is a reference but it really depends on the types of units you are going to build and the parking requirements,” answered Yerman. “This site, because it lies on top of the old town landfill, has state mandates that could add additional costs to any builds. For example, the state requires a clean-up for the foundation of any single-family homes that could add $9 per square foot to the costs. Think about what you know about radon mitigation and take that to the next level times 10. However, if the structures have underground parking, then that cost is eliminated because the parking is already ventilated. So if we build an affordable housing complex with underground parking, that could be a cost savings.”

“The cost savings would be significant because you would avoid having to backfill the excavation with clean dirt,” added Cameron Aderhold, Cypress developer. “For the clean-up that we have already done on the landfill, the majority of our costs were for backfilling the excavation with clean dirt. And with underground parking, you would avoid that cost.”

Before the discussion came to an end, Dujardin proposed an in-town hike-access jib park.

“I have been thinking about the potential uses of the passive park space [TP4] and the proposed sled hill and I am wondering ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if our town became the first in the country to have a hike-to jib park in town limits?’” proposed Dujardin. “Especially because we already have a sledding hill, but we do not have an in-town jib park.”

“Are you talking about building a lift?” asked Schmidt.

“No! I am talking about putting structures on the hill like rails that people could hike to,” replied Dujardin.

“Like the hippo humps?” asked council member Mona Merrill.

“Kind of. It’s more like durable, man-made features like rails and boxes,” explained Dujardin. “But when I talked to Janna Hansen—she said the town insurance wouldn’t cover it. But it would be awesome.”

In the end, council unanimously approved the preliminary plan with two minor conditions to be worked out before March 16, when the first reading of the final plan is scheduled. Council also scheduled a public hearing for the final plan on April 6.

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