CB council weighs in on North Village development

Housing, traffic, playing fields

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council will compose a comment letter to the developers of the proposed North Village development in Mt. Crested Butte. While there is not yet much of a detailed, concrete proposal to react to, the council did want to express their biggest concerns and desires with the concept.

Affordable housing; traffic coming through Crested Butte as a result of the development; and potential recreation fields to relieve some pressure on the town fields appear to be at the top of the issues list.

Representatives of the development team and Mt. Crested Butte Town Council discussed the process of the current course with the Crested Butte council at a work session on Monday, March 2. Mt. Crested Butte council member Roman Kolodziej gave some history and background of the project, saying that Mt. Crested Butte, the developers and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) were about halfway through a pre-development Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is in place to determine if all the parties could generally agree to a roadmap for the potential development.

“The three main challenges for this MOU period are: addressing the water rights that Crested Butte Mountain Resort has on the North Village parcel [for a potential reservoir]; identifying the desired composition of the project amenities; and what the funding sources and responsibilities are for those desired amenities,” explained Kolodziej.

He emphasized that having the town work together with the developer and Rocky Mountain Biological Lab could result in significant affordable housing units on the site. Kolodziej said things like a playing field could also possibly be included in a final plan. “We hope the preliminary work we are doing now will result in avoiding some issues other development proposals have had,” he said.

Mt. Crested Butte council member Nicholas Kempin said the next big hurdle to cross was figuring out if a Crested Butte Mountain Resort reservoir is a real possibility or not. “Any development would be very different with a lake in the middle of it,” he said. He did indicate that having a reservoir to supply water for snowmaking on the ski area might be a priority for Vail Resorts and given that “Vail’s business is our [Mt. Crested Butte’s] business,” it was a topic to be settled in this process.

When asked about a potential timeline, North Village project manager Crockett Farnell of Black Dragon Development said it would likely be another two years before dirt was turned. He said the best-case scenario had the town approving a Planned Unit Development (PUD) by late spring of next year. From there financing and logistics would need to be organized. “It is unlikely something would get started next summer [2021] but it could easily start the spring of 2022,” Farnell said.

“We are very early in the process,” Kempin said. “But we are gathering public input and would love to hear what Crested Butte would like to see.”

“Affordable housing is obviously something we’d like,” said mayor Jim Schmidt.

“That’s our council’s highest priority for the project,” agreed Kempin.

Housing consultant Willa Williford said she started out working for the North Village development team but was now contracted with the town of Mt. Crested Butte. She said a council subcommittee was forming to help determine specific goals and priorities for the town in that realm. She was also calculating the housing need for the present and the future.

When asked by Crested Butte council member Mallika Magner if steps were being taken to address traffic, Kempin said the issue was a major topic of concern at the last public open house. “I think where we’re going as a council is to try to prioritize mass transit over parking for the project,” he said.

“Also reducing the units from the currently approved 1,800 to something much less will make a dramatic reduction in the traffic number,” added Farnell.

“Nevertheless, there will be a significant impact from traffic in our town of Crested Butte,” said Magner.

Williford pointed out that including seasonal housing units in the project could reduce traffic as well by housing employees who work for the ski area in the winter and employees that work for Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in the summer. “Getting people to live close to their jobs reduces traffic,” she said.

Crested Butte council member Laura Mitchell emphasized the need for a post office in the project so that Mt. Crested Butte residents wouldn’t have to drive to Crested Butte to get their mail, as they do now. “We have real limitations with that in town,” she said. “It is a really important piece.”

“It’s on the list,” Kempin assured her.

RMBL executive director Ian Billick said his organization has three goals. It wants to locate some laboratory and office space in Mt. Crested Butte instead of Gothic; it wants summer seasonal housing units for some staff that could then be used by CBMR in the winter for employees; and it wants to be “more effective connecting visitors to the landscape. Having a visitor’s center in Mt. Crested Butte would allow us to connect people there instead of Gothic.”

Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Janna Hansen told the team that additional field space was a major priority in the Crested Butte master plan. “It is absolutely a huge need. In general having a large field for multiple uses is important for this end of the valley,” she said.

“The intent is to make this the most it can be,” said Kolodziej.

“We are very early in the process and there are still more questions than answers,” emphasized Kempin.

“We are fortunate with who bought the property,” explained Farnell. “The Alvarez family wants a good legacy project for this community. But it has to make sense. They aren’t going to lose millions of dollars to make it happen but they want a good community project. It is what makes it work with the synergy of the partnerships.”

The Crested Butte council asked staff to draft a letter with potential input and have the council review it before sending it to the development team.

The next public open house on the North Village will be held Monday, March 9 at 6 p.m. Because of the number of people who showed up at the last meeting, the March 9 session will be held in the Elevation Hotel.

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