Keep it natural, keep the open space, keep the simplicities
[ By Kendra Walker ]
The town of Mt. Crested Butte continues to make progress on developing its Master Plan that will provide guidance for decision-making for the next 10-15 years, and last week held a joint work session between the town council and planning commission to review community feedback and discuss the town’s vision for the future.
“This allows us to take a step back and think about what is the best thing for our town,” said town manager Isa Reeb. “When you create the vision, that’s when people start thinking differently. As leaders we need to create the vision first. This is a decision-making tool, a marketing document, a communication tool with developers who want to come in and build. If we identify something we think would be great we could also go out and find the partners ourselves. It’s multi-level.”
Tori Aidala with Norris Design, who is assisting the town with its master plan, was at the work session and has helped the town conduct a series of community engagement events this summer for obtaining feedback on housing, transit, base area enhancements and recreation/trails. This has included focus groups, the town picnic, an online survey, and a booth at the Music on the Mountain concert series.
Reeb explained that the overall feedback has been to keep it natural, keep the open space and keep the simplicities. “Moderation has been the overall theme in our conversations,” she said.
One of the most popular topics in the community feedback discussions, most people agreed that there’s no silver bullet to creating more affordable housing and there’s a need for a lot of different types of housing. Aidala also noted that many people felt the opportunities in the rental market were very low and there’s a big need for apartments and triplexes.
“When you’re thinking about housing and as things come across your desk for different projects, be really thoughtful about efficient use of land, be thoughtful about that intentional growth,” she advised.
Aidala explained that common feedback was confusion around the transit center, bus pickup times, and inconsistent bus schedules. There is also confusion around delivery schedules and trash pickup, as every building and HOA seems to be on a different schedule and there’s no centrally located delivery and trash pickup zone at the base area.
The town is currently working with CBMR to update and enhance its wayfinding around the base area for a more cohesive feel.
“I was surprised of the confusing bus schedules,” said councilmember Roman Kolodziej. “It’s loaded in Google Maps, it barely changes, it’s pretty reliable, usually only delayed because somebody doesn’t know how to put their bike on the bus.”
“You all understand the bus, people that we want to encourage getting on the bus don’t live here,” explained Reeb. “We get regular phone calls to town hall of people trying to figure out the bus,” she said, noting the different bus loops and seasonal schedule changes. “From an outside perspective it’s very confusing. The wayfinding feedback was, ‘I take the bus everywhere I go and I can’t figure it out here.’ It’s a theme we need to listen to.”
“When people find out they have to take two buses and have to transfer buses, they won’t do it,” said mayor Janet Farmer.
“In the off-season it needs to be more regular,” said planning commission member Sara Morgan. “People are hitchhiking because they just missed the bus and it’s 40 minutes before the next one.”
Morgan also noted that the majority of the town’s future affordable housing is out at Homestead and North Village. “How do we tie the transportation and transit goals to match with where the community housing is going to be?”
“Making sure that north side is getting access to public transit will be extremely important,” said Aidala.
Base area enhancements
Public feedback voiced the need for more community amenities that create a sense of place, such as childcare, grocery store, public gathering spaces and more things for people to do.
Councilmember Michael Bacani agreed with the public sentiment. “You go to the base area at 6 o’clock in the evening, there’s no one there. There’s some restaurants available, there’s some bars available. How do you keep people up here? As soon as it gets dark there’s no one down there.”
“You want it to be a destination, a place for people to go to and right now there’s really nothing going on,” said Aidala. She suggested other places to hang out besides restaurants, bringing in food trucks and a farmers market, having different events and activities other than skiing that make it friendlier for families. She pointed out that during public feedback there was a positive response to an alpine slide. “A fun activity at the mountain, something you can’t do at home,” she said.
Recreation and trails
Based on public input, the town’s environment and recreation elements are a focal part of living in Mt. Crested Butte. Most community members expressed the desire to protect the town’s views and open space and reduce vehicular traffic through increased transit.
Aidala asked the boards, “Why do you love Mt. Crested Butte and what makes it so special?”
Community development director Carlos Velado answered for himself, “It wasn’t necessarily specific to Mt. Crested Butte, it was about the valley as a whole, the people, the community. I’d be curious on people’s answers to that question, as it’s specific to Mt. Crested Butte.”
“I like Mt. Crested Butte because it’s not Crested Butte,” said planning commission member Lisa Lenander. “It’s chaotic down there and I like the peace and quiet up here. I like to ski, the bus comes right by house. It’s a less dense, more peaceful vibe.”
“We’re a place that people want to come visit and everyone that lives here is lucky to live in,” said Bacani.
“As a full-time resident thinking about the base area, sure I’d like some amenities and convenience and niceties,” said Kolodziej. “But I don’t want a packed base area. We have a packed town down the road.”
“We’re trying to draw all these people, but we have all these problems when they do come here,” said council member Nicholas Kempin.
“Is it less about bringing more people here and more about keeping people here when they do come?” asked Aidala.
“It’s a lot easier to keep visitors for more days than find new people to come visit,” said planning commission chair Dusty Demerson.
The general consensus was that the Master Plan should focus on the town’s quality of life and environment, and be thoughtful in finding a balance between full-time residents, part-time residents and visitors.
Aidala said the next steps of the Master Plan process is to take all the data and community outreach feedback to move forward with some planning and ideas that can turn into applicable programs, policies and project dates for Mt. Crested Butte’s goals for the future. The plan is to have a drafted Master Plan by the end of October.