Mt. CB denies town manager residency waiver request

House under contract in Gunnison

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

The Mt. Crested Butte town council made it very clear last week that it wants the town manager to live inside the town boundaries.

During their February 1 meeting, the Mt. Crested Butte town council denied town manager Isa Reeb’s request that they waive the requirement that the town manager must reside in the town of Mt. Crested Butte. She said she was unable to secure housing in the north end of the valley and had put a house in Gunnison under contract.

The Mt. Crested Butte town charter states that, “during his/her tenure of office, he/she shall reside within the town, except at the discretion of the council.”

In a staff memo to the council, Reeb stated, “I have been unable to find affordable for-sale or long-term for-rent housing in Mt. CB for my family since our search began in February 2021. My employment contract stipulated that a Homestead unit would be available, however, that housing project has not come to fruition and the timeline on completion is unknown.

“We’ve been working with several realtors and property managers for nearly a year and the instability has been detrimental to my home life and mental health,” she continued. “A permanent housing solution has presented itself outside of the Town of Mt. CB and is currently the only viable option to ensure stable, long-term housing for my family. It’s important that we find stability, and this affords us that opportunity. After moving three times in six months and being on a constant search for our next place to live, we are eager for our search to be over.”

She noted, “The decision to search outside of Mt. CB for housing was extremely difficult because I would rather live in Mt. CB. However, this decision will not affect my availability or ability to perform my duties effectively and efficiently.”

She also provided a list of other mountain communities that do not require the town manager to live within the town boundaries, unless a housing unit is already offered and provided, including Winter Park, Breckenridge, Steamboat and Avon. “All of the town managers talk to each other and from what I’ve heard is the residency requirement is outdated for resort towns,” she said during the meeting. 

“I think that this waiver is a very serious question,” said council member Nicholas Kempin. “Upfront Isa, I think this was the wrong approach for a whole host of reasons. To be very direct I think you should have brought this subject up before you went under contract on a property. You’ve shrunken the timeframe for us to decide this and I don’t think that was the way to go.”

Kempin listed the various reasons why he felt the requirement was important to be included in the town charter. “We live out here at the end of the road, a single road with no way out in the winter time,” he said, noting natural disasters, wildfires, utility outages, etc. “All of those things are important for the town manager to be present for. The town manager should also be subject to the rules and fees and costs that come with a community where you’re working on the rules and costs…If you’re putting a burden on the citizens in Mt. Crested Butte, then that same burden is on you as well.”

Kempin also noted that the previous Mt. CB town manager often made himself available to chat with council members after business hours. “You made a comment at our last meeting about what a long day it was and that we were 14 hours in and so I wonder how that will play if you have to drive home to Gunnison.” 

He continued, “I have not heard from you that the Elevation [Hotel] was unacceptable to you, and I would have expected an interim step where you came to us and said living in Elevation is not acceptable to me, I have not found other housing and so I would like to expand my search.”

Reeb explained her reasoning, “As you guys know, any type of property that’s available you have to jump on immediately, so it was not an ideal situation, nor has this entire year been an ideal situation.”

“We should have been given the opportunity to find you a place to rent or give you additional money,” said Kempin. “Buying a place in the valley was never part of our bargain with you.”

“It’s been a year,” said Reeb. “It’s been extremely hard and you guys know how hard it’s been. We talk about housing difficulties all the time.”

“I’m definitely very sympathetic to the housing struggle,” said council member Lauren Koelliker. “The difficult thing is town did purchase for about half a million dollars a condo for employee housing for our town of Mt. CB employees and none of them chose to move into it,” she said, referencing the Elk Ridge II condo the town purchased in November which is now being leased to a community member.

According to the Gunnison County Assessor’s Office, the unit is an 876-square-foot two-bed, two bath condo.

“It’s hard for me to understand how there wasn’t anything available,” said Koelliker. “I understand that it wasn’t maybe to your liking or what you were hoping for. But I think it was a solid effort by town to put a lot of money into trying to find at least a temporary solution.”

“I personally value living in the community that you’re attempting to be a part of,” said council member Roman Kolodziej.

Kempin made a motion to deny waiving the residency requirement in the town’s charter. The council voted 6-1, with Koelliker voting against, to not waive the residency requirement. 

When the Crested Butte News followed up with Reeb this week, she responded, “The outcome of the town council meeting on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, was disheartening for me and my family.

“I, like many others in this community have struggled to find housing in the valley for the past year and have been living in small, close quarters that are inadequate. The delay of Homestead affected many families in this community, and I am in the same situation they are with struggling to find an alternative option.”

She continued, “These housing challenges are not unique to the town of Mt. Crested Butte. Within the staff memo, I outlined the many resort towns within the state that either offer a single-family house or allow their town manager to live outside of town limits. One I did not include is the town of Crested Butte—which also provides a single-family home for their town manager. While I understand this is not the most ideal situation, I am at a loss of what to do if I want to remain working and living in the valley and serving the town of Mt. Crested Butte. My situation is not unique to my family, it will continue to be an issue for future town managers as well.

“I sincerely hope we will be able to come to an agreement that works for the town of Mt. Crested Butte and my family so I can continue serving the community I care so deeply about,” she concluded.

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