Elk Avenue proposal to be considered by CB council

Much more parking to be allowed than originally thought

by Mark Reaman

After significant feedback from Elk Avenue businesses, the Crested Butte town staff has crafted a proposal to reconfigure the town’s main thoroughfare this summer to allow for one-way traffic and more business space in public rights-of-way. The plan would mean losing about a quarter of the current parking on Elk Avenue but is meant to provide businesses with more commercial space due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions in place.

Crested Butte town planner Mel Yemma said she has been talking to business owners and while some are “desperate for more outdoor space, some are adamantly against any change to Elk Avenue. In general we are emphasizing that whatever ends up being approved would be temporary and could be taken down if it is not working to assist local business to get more customers and clients. This is meant to help businesses, not hinder their ability to sell their products. Frankly, we are still in a place where no one knows what to expect this summer. It changes every day.”

The plan includes potential for restaurants to provide more seating outside and for retailers to display their wares on public rights-of-way. Yemma said there are many elements to consider as part of the plan, including safety, the use of barricades, transit, signage, parking mitigation that doesn’t overwhelm nearby neighborhoods, and liquor permitting.

The Crested Butte Town Council will consider all of the elements and the plan in general at the June 1 council meeting.

Yemma and community development director Troy Russ spent a day on a field trip along Elk Avenue last week to discuss different possibilities with business owners. They have reached out to individual businesses with concerns to try to assuage their anxieties. A group Zoom meeting was also held Tuesday to gather more information to tweak the proposal.

“At the same time, we want to set up a mechanism to take it down if it is not working,” added Yemma. “We are not trying to push anything. We want businesses with skin in the game to be happy with any change. We are just trying to provide options that might help business under the current circumstances and encourage commerce.”

Yemma said the town wants to similarly help businesses located off of Elk Avenue as well and is formulating a simple application for those that want to utilize outdoor space for their establishments. “We are open to listen to any creative ideas to provide more space,” she said.

Yemma again emphasized that any change would be temporary and is not the first step in trying to turn Elk Avenue into a pedestrian mall. “Creating some sort of festive atmosphere with this right now goes against everything we’re trying to do,” she explained. “We don’t want large groups mingling. We are not trying to create a new pedestrian mall.”

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