“This feels like a process that is happening to us rather than us being a part of it”
[ By Kendra Walker ]
Mt. Crested Butte continues to develop its Master Plan, and during a joint work session with consultant Norris Design on February 15, the town council and planning commission reviewed the drafted plan thus far, public feedback and next steps. Both the council and planning commission expressed concern around too much focus on the base area and not enough on housing, and asked for more priority of housing and consideration of big developments in the pipeline such as the North Village.
During Phase 1, the draft Master Plan was developed after five months of community outreach, which included four focus groups, stakeholder advisory groups, feedback at the community picnic, summer concert series outreach, an online survey, an open house, joint council and planning commission meetings and meetings with regional partners.
At the end of 2021 and beginning of this year, the public was invited to review the draft master plan and provide feedback. During the February 15 meeting, Norris Design walked the town council and planning commission through a summary of the review comments related to sustainability, community housing, implementation, transportation, buildings and community amenities.
Recurring public comment asked to clarify what the town is doing for community housing, as many in the community continue to stress that housing should be the number one priority over the base area. Council and planning commission members expressed concern that the Master Plan currently focuses too much on the base area.
“I think our housing issues are actually even more important than base area redevelopment,” said planning commission member Dusty Demerson. “The planning commission deals with housing opportunities with every single plan that comes across our desk…as I read so far this document is a base area document. Housing is not a base area problem, it’s an entire region problem. There will be opportunities to develop housing much sooner than there will be opportunities to develop in the base area.”
“We have to focus on both things, housing and development,” said Elena Scott of Norris Design. “We realize the private market will dictate many things that happen here, but make sure that community housing is a part of it.”
“My perception going into this process is helping us see what the town is going to be like as we approach build out,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “What’s not listed is management of what we have.”
He expressed the desire to use the opportunity to investigate the impact short-term rentals have had on the town. “It just seems like this is a perfect opportunity to analyze our town in regard to opportunities gained or lost in regard to short-term rentals,” said Kolodziej. “This feels like a process that is happening to us rather than us being a part of it. I was never around to say this is what I would like to see in the process. There’s a giant piece missing that’s an opportunity to address as we keep adding things.”
“Council has expressed a lot of concern that STRs are kind of all over the place, and taking over everywhere and there are not some local neighborhoods,” said Mayor Janet Farmer.
“We just identified housing should be the number one priority, there needs to be a mix,” said council member Lauren Koelliker. “Certainly those STRs influence how many hotel beds we need and also influence the full-time population’s options. That’s just something maybe we hope would be part of this is looking at where STRs are and how they impact the community.”
The group also expressed concerns around the concept of eventually removing existing buildings from the base area, and wondered if the current owners of the properties in the base area are part of the discussion as much as they should be.
“Did the group of owners have any thoughts on what parts of the base area were working?” asked Farmer.
“They were going to get back to us on ideas of what they thought was working well,” said Scott. “We’re planning to have another discussion with them.”
“At what point is there a set of options with a whole bunch of variables of what works and doesn’t and why?” asked Kolodziej. “Something was presented last time around with what I understand to be not a whole lot of input from the people who own those properties. Now we’re still waiting to hear feedback. At what point are all those people included in the conversation?”
Scott clarified that the Master Plan is more focused on describing the outcome that is trying to be achieved, and presenting several different ideas that could lead there, such as removing existing buildings for more visibility and flow to the ski lifts. “We want to achieve the outcome of a more vibrant base area. What we’re drawing is not a development plan, it’s an intended outcome,” she said. “Ultimately what we’re looking at is what is the capacity of our community infrastructure and concurrently with that what is the actual reality. We did establish some goals with the base area owners on how to make some decisions to come in alignment. Everybody agrees that improvements are needed. We don’t want it to be a discussion on just the base area but the community as a whole. What is working, where to invest now? What are the incremental changes we can make over time?”
Norris Design also explained its goals for a transportation analysis, which focuses on Gothic Road along the base area. “What we’re trying to do is have a better understanding of the capacity as it exists today and how that might impact development,” said Shaida Libhart of Traffic Engineers, Inc. “How can you maximize the corridor you have today and think about the land uses that feed into it.”
“We have several large developments past that base area, past the bus turnaround that will surely impact transportation,” said Koelliker, noting the North Village and asking if they planned to expand the transportation analysis beyond the base area.
“For any development you have there will be a transportation study with that. What we’re really focused on doing with this is seeing what Gothic Road can handle,” said Libhart. “As far as the North Village development we have received the traffic study that was done for that. That is really more separate from what we’ve been given as part of the Master Plan, that is not as much a piece of the core. That is something that is still being decided upon and being decided outside of the Master Plan which is why we didn’t want to include it as a given.”
“Whether it’s North Village or Prospect we’re going to see continued growth past the base area and that’s going to impact Gothic Road around the base area, and we do need to keep that in mind,” said Farmer.
“I think a transportation analysis that doesn’t take into consideration the North Village or Prospect is short-sighted and not part of a master plan, that’s part of a base area plan,” said Demerson.
For next steps, Norris plans to continue reviewing comments, integrate transportation, water and market analysis findings, and formalize all goals for the overall Master Plan. Another stakeholder meeting will take place on March 2 and the town council and planning commission will conduct another joint meeting on March 15.
Kolodziej also requested that Norris extend the scope of work to include community outreach this winter regarding the Master Plan. “This is when the base area is busy and it’s a whole different set of visitors,” he said.
Community development director Carlos Velado said that the town could put together an amendment to the contract to provide additional outreach services.