Crested Butte council puts housing first among top five priorities

Retreat lays out big picture and strategy to get to a strategic plan

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

The still relatively new Crested Butte town council has set its big picture goals but understands it will take some time to come up with specific strategies to accomplish those objectives. In an all-day retreat held December 7 the councilmembers agreed to narrow their primary focus to housing, climate change, transportation, impacts of tourism and general livability that maintains the community.

The retreat was held Tuesday, December 7 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. All the councilmembers attended along with town manager Dara MacDonald and town attorney John Sullivan. Councilwoman Mona Merrill participated by Zoom.

“Because the retreat was a work session, no formal action was taken,” explained mayor Ian Billick. “A major item of discussion was how we will operate, some of which will be considered as formal changes to our operations and procedures. We anticipate focusing on higher level priorities.”

Billick said the council’s top high-level priority is housing and a new housing specialist will be on the staff starting this spring. That person is expected to help develop successful housing strategies. 

“The Sixth and Butte-Paradise Park build-out project should lead to approximately 80 units in the town and the Planning Department is working on recommendations from the Housing Task Force,” said Billick. “However, we have some strategic questions to take on before we can have a fully articulated housing strategy. Are we trying to meet all workforce needs or just essential needs, and how is “essential” defined? How do we retain community members as their lives and needs change? How do we think about housing within the context of other issues that directly affect quality of life like transportation and school growth? Such a strategy was beyond the scope of the retreat. The Community Compass is meant to inform broader community goals, identifying trade-offs between different elements of community needs.”

In terms of how the council might change things up with its future operations, Billick said the retreat discussion included not only talking about the priorities of the councilmembers but also looked at upcoming meetings in the next several months, as well as a rough list of council agenda items for 2022 to see how those mapped against the priorities.

“For work sessions, we will be moving away from having material read to us to holding more of a discussion,” he said. “To facilitate public engagement, we will be distributing council packets several days earlier. We will be asking the public during their comment to be focused; when we have large turnouts, we will allow three minutes of comment rather than five, encouraging written comment. We will likely add Audit and Personnel Committees to the council duties. 

“To better manage time and reduce conflicts of interest I anticipate we will limit appointments by the council of councilmembers to non-governmental non-profits or committees, unless there is a compelling reason a formal council position is justified,” Billick continued. “Overall, the new council’s goals aligned well with existing 2022 priorities and tentative plans for council agendas in 2022. As the Community Compass finishes this summer we will be re-evaluating the Town’s focus.”

The ultimate outcome is to move beyond general priorities by the end of next year and have in place a strategic plan that would move the town toward achieving the goals. “For the council to be successful by the end of 2022 we will need to have gone from broad-brush priorities and a Community Compass plan to a well-defined strategy with meaningful actions that will help the community keep up with the pace of change,” Billick emphasized. “The council has alignment on our larger priorities and we will integrate what we hear from the Community Compass.”

Among other things, the council plans to take a hard look at what is needed to stay focused on bikes and pedestrians in town. Billick said that the council is generally excited by the opportunities in front of it.

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