“Flexible zoning, is that not an oxymoron?”
[ By Kendra Walker ]
After reviewing the “Village at Mt. Crested Butte” planned unit development (PUD) major alteration application and hearing public feedback over the last several weeks, the Mt. Crested Butte planning commission asked for a more detailed plan from the applicant, North Village Associates, at its September 22 meeting. Public comment continued to reflect concerns around traffic, water and number of units.
The Village at Mt. Crested Butte, more commonly known as the North Village, is under planning commission review for the development of the 150-acre property at the base of Snodgrass on the north end of Mt. Crested Butte. The PUD application aims for a “flexible zoning” approach that will allow for publicly driven opportunities and stakeholders to establish themselves within the plan. Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) is already a partner and the plan includes a new visitors center, dormitories and RMBL campus.
Because of the “flexible zoning” approach, both commission members and the public expressed confusion around the actual number of units proposed. The total maximum allowable proposed number of units is 700 dwelling units and 400 accommodation units (hotel rooms), in addition to 40 RMBL dwelling units.
Mt. CB community development director Carlos Velado explained further. “Accommodation units may be swapped for dwelling units at a rate of 2:1. For example if no accommodation units were to be built within the PUD, an additional 200 dwelling units would be allowed. Thus, at no point would more than 900 new units (not including RMBL) be allowed.”
Seventeen units have already been set aside for community housing and the plan will also follow the town’s inclusionary zoning requirements that 15 percent of new residential development units must be affordable housing units. “So if all 700 housing units were built, 105 of those would be required community housing,” explained North Village lead planner Heather Henry.
“I am still feeling that this is more of what we would call a sketch plan,” said planning commission member Nancy Grindlay. “The lack of details to me makes it very difficult to evaluate. Flexible zoning – I’m not familiar with that term. To me it sounds like piecemeal.
“When you say we’re going to build a medical center or daycare or we’re going to build affordable housing…it’s going to be people that you’re going to bring in, other construction workers, other companies that are going to be doing the building…that adds a whole other level of administration. It just sounds like this incredible bureaucracy,” said Grindlay. “It’s difficult to envision how a community is going to evolve with this flexible zoning without really having any vision of how this is going to organically grow. I think we need more direction than just saying, well we’re going to see who shows up and what they want to build and as long as it fits the 700 dwelling units or 400 accommodation units or the amount of commercial that we’re proposing, that’s going to be ok. I would like to see a lot more details on the zoning.”
“Flexible zoning, is that not an oxymoron?” said planning commission chair Dusty Demerson.
“I think the community is used to seeing a very distinct PUD that has a precise building, can dimension it, can put each use in it, exact number of units and everything else,” said Henry.
“Our code calls for it,” said Demerson.
“So what you can envision is we’re trying to create this village where it can evolve over time, have community needs as they’re identified, whether they’re civic uses, certain community housing….what we want to make sure is we put the parameters and the details that gets everyone comfortable around uses, dimensional standard, building heights, all of those things but allows flexibility for those community needs to evolve,” said Henry.
“And so that to us is not zoning, that’s not planning, that’s just random,” said Demerson. “I understand your desire for the flexibility, however there’s a process that you’re going through right now in amending a PUD. I’ve lost sleep over this because I’ve never seen a PUD plan like this and I’ve seen a lot of PUD plans. It’s just not specific enough.”
The maximum allowable total for commercial square footage is 90,000 square feet, in addition to RMBL’s 25,000 for commercial, 8,000 for a visitor’s center and 2,500 for a transit center.
Henry explained that the North Village Associates’ vision is to ‘build to suit.’ “The idea is working with these users first and then building to suit what they’re going to need,” she said. “We have felt really confident that to build to suit these commercial uses actually secures that stability.”
“I ask myself, am I going to drive up there for coffee when I can walk to the base area right now and get coffee?” said planning commission member Lisa Lenander. “You’re going to have to do more to convince me what services can we get there that I can’t get at the base already or downtown Crested Butte or the future Prospect development. Will those commercial components thrive in 10-20 years considering all these other options that are closer to the base area?” said Lenander.
During public comment, Kathy Hooge voiced her opinion against a hotel. “Adding yet another hotel adds low-paid workers for cleaning, laundry, front desk and other tasks that don’t pay a lot, which then means Mt. Crested Butte needs to find yet more essential worker housing,” she said. “If a hotel is allowed to be built I think they should build all the workers’ housing within the hotel for those specific workers and not use the other lots that have already been set aside.”
Commission members again expressed concern for the one entrance into the neighborhood. The North Village team conducted a traffic study during the Fourth of July this summer, which led them to predict the full North Village build-out by 2026 would generate approximately 8,548 daily trips. According to the study, Gothic Road currently serves approximately 1,920 vehicles per day north of Prospect Drive, approximately 3,400 south of Winterset Drive and approximately 6,600 south of Treasury Road.
“My understanding is that RMBL can have up to 400 visitors on any given day in July,” said Lenander. “Does RMBL have any idea how many people would peel off and use the campus visitor center? I’m for a second entrance near the RMBL campus so that all of the students, anybody that’s working in the food service or visitor center can peel out.”
Henry explained that the traffic analysis takes into account handling all commercial uses, including RMBL and the visitor’s center.
“We have looked at multiple second access points,” clarified Henry. “The secondary entrance points that have been explored by this team or were included in the previously approved PUD were ecologically terrible… impacting wetlands, open space, viewsheds and ultimately fragmenting the landscape. For us, finding the solution where we could have this boulevard achieves the balance of a well-designed community that has an ecologically sensitive footprint and ensures the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants.”
“I still think there should be a second road,” said Lenander.
“We need to be more creative than just the typical ways of transportation,” said Grindlay. “Traffic is going to be a huge issue and we need to address that with some other means of transportation within the North Village to the base area but also to get down to Crested Butte. The traffic study that was done was only considered down to Treasury, it did not consider traffic through the base area, it did not consider down past the entrance of town. It will impact the whole north end of the valley.”
“I think the construction traffic alone doesn’t seem to be represented,” noted planning commission member Kory Kula.
“I think there’s a missing middle in housing that sometimes gets left out of the conversation,” said Laura Puckett Daniels during public comment. “We talk a lot about deed restricted, the technical definition of affordable housing, and workforce housing, but I think that there’s a missing middle I’d like to see if possible. The opportunity for folks who are professionals in this community working really hard but still can’t afford $2M-dollar homes.”
Demerson agreed, “I really would like for you to consider some spaces with much smaller single family home sizes that get into that middle ground where maybe a local can buy a lot and build a small house. I think you will feel some love there if you had some 5 or 6,000-square-foot lots and some opportunities for locals to buy in the middle.”
“I’d like to be convinced that with our current capacity – not with building a dam, not with expanding Long Lake, or bringing in transfer tubes to put water over to Mt. Crested Butte – I’d like to be convinced that the physical water we have existing is enough to satisfy this build-out that’s being proposed,” said Grindlay.
“I really think it’s important for you to get a presentation from Water & San about the details of what it means to provide the capacity,” said Jim Sharpe during public comment. “The upgrades that we’re seeing currently being completed do cover a good portion of the entire valley including build out of the North Village as proposed…however I don’t think there’s adequate wet usable water.”
The next meeting…
The planning commission agreed to continue the North Village discussion to its next meeting on October 6, with the North Village team revising the PUD guide with more details. Planning commission member Sara Morgan pointed out the town of Mt. Crested Butte is updating its Master Plan and asked that the plan aligns with the community needs and goals that will be identified in the Master Plan. A public town hall to gather feedback and discuss the Master Plan is scheduled for October 12 from 4-6 p.m. at Town Hall.
“We’re anxious to see what you do with revision of the PUD guide. We want to be able to spend time to create a good document that’s solid,” said Demerson.
“It’s important to us to get this right,” said Henry.