Council to consider Academy Place cottage proposal next week

Short-term residential accommodation rentals not the same as short-term vacation rentals

[ by Mark Reaman ]

The Crested Butte town council will hold a public hearing on March 1 to consider allowing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for a proposed cottage development on the old Crested Butte Academy site at Whiterock Avenue and Fifth Street. In a memo to the council, community development director Troy Russ explained that a PUD allows opportunities for more efficient design, development flexibility and public benefits when compared to what is allowed in the current zoning, which in this case is a T-Zone (tourist zone).

The proposal calls for eight buildings that include 12 privately owned, condominiumized short-term residential accommodation units (six cottages and six townhomes) that would be rented like hotel rooms under a single commercial operator. It was emphasized that despite the similarity in terms, the cottages would not be used like short-term vacation rentals but would function like a hotel with common reservation, housekeeping, utility and reception services. The plan includes one deed-restricted resident occupied affordable housing (ROAH) unit for an employee which is more than is required by the town, one deed-restricted owner occupied residential unit and public meeting space. It also includes some public open space and does not eliminate the mature trees at the southwest corner of the property. While under town regulations 29 parking spaces are required, the plan shows 28. The east half of the property is used for snow storage and parking by the town but the property owner has terminated the lease and will use that lot for staging construction of the project.

Russ said the plan complements the nearby neighborhoods and he indicated the proposal provided good benefits for the town. He said the members of BOZAR felt the application met the criteria of conditional uses allowed in the T-Zone. “The BOZAR appreciated the architecture and scale being proposed,” said Russ. “This design is very conscientious of the neighbors.”

Looking at the parking plan, mayor Jim Schmidt noted that the alley is used for access to many of the spaces. He suggested that perhaps the alley become one-way to reduce congestion. He said he has heard some concern from fellow council members about reducing the parking requirement from 29 to 28 given its proximity to the Center for the Arts.

“I feel the proposal warrants a pretty big public discussion,” stated council member Will Dujardin. “Adding what looks like 12 short-term rentals to town in a tense time with workforce housing has generated some community discussion.”

“It sounds similar but this is basically a cottage-style hotel instead of putting in one big building,” said Schmidt.

“The town still has its 212 cap for short-term vacation rentals. It is important to note that this project is not displacing any residential units,” added Russ. “It is in the T-Zone. It will be a commercial project and it will be taxed as such.”

“Remember that there used to be a hotel on that property,” said councilwoman Laura Mitchell. “I know it will bother some people given our housing situation but it is proposed for the right zone.”

“Could the developers add more affordable housing to make it more palatable to the general public,” asked Dujardin.

“We could have gotten one large building on the site but we didn’t think it was the most appropriate for that property,” said developer Bob Brotherton. “We are providing additional things like the one full ROAH unit and public open space.”

“We considered a LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) project but given the size of the building it started to diminish the neighborhood. We wanted to protect the neighborhoods. That is why we added the extra deed-restricted units and the open space for the public that will be used as educational for high alpine gardening.”

“There’s really a pressing need in this community and it feels like we could have taken a larger chunk out of the affordable housing issue with this property,” said Dujardin. “The vibe around town is that this isn’t in the best interests of the community.”

“We studied the density and adding another unit would mean it would be two or three feet from the other building corners,” said Hartman. “To push another unit in there would mean going to maybe a third story and that hurts what we are trying to do. We’ve been at this for over a year to meet the needs of the neighborhood to avoid a big building with a big paved parking lot on the site.”

“The applicant is going above the code requirements,” said Russ. “So while you bring up good concerns Will, they should be tailored within the zoning criteria. It is allowed in this zone.”

The council will conduct a public hearing over the proposed PUD on Monday, March 1.

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