Fire district puts campus construction plans on hold for 2022

Terminates property IGA with town of CB…looking at Spann property next door

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The Crested Butte Fire Protection District is putting its proposal to construct a new fire station on a temporary hold while at the same time withdrawing from the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the town of Crested Butte. That IGA was the agreement that defined how the town would have provided the district 1.55 acres of land in the Slate River subdivision for the new emergency campus under certain conditions. Fire district representatives no longer see construction realistically starting in 2022 as hoped but they are communicating with Gunnison County about possibly building the campus or part of the campus on the land just north of the town boundary that is owned by Spann Ranches.

The fire district board is discussing the potential of developing that 1.8-acre property recently purchased from Spann Ranches that is adjacent to the town boundary. That property was needed on top of the town land to accommodate the proposed 30,0000 square foot fire station, a 10,000-square-foot Search-and-Rescue building and a fourplex for deed restricted housing. The entire Spann Ranch property in that location is 7.8 acres. 

CBFPD staff was instructed by the board after a special meeting on May 3 to meet with the Spanns and assistant county manager Cathie Pagano, “regarding development of the parcel currently owned by CBFPD just north of the (town parcel).” 

Pagano said she has since met with fire district officials about the property.

“We have had a preliminary conversation with Cathie about land use, zoning and building code requirements,” confirmed CBFPD chief executive officer Sean Caffrey when asked if discussions were taking place about more fully using the Spann property. “We have also notified the county that we would be leaving the IGA with the Town of CB.” 

The CBFPD also already owns sites with existing facilities in Mt. Crested Butte, Buckhorn and Crested Butte South and is looking at how those properties could be utilized.

Cutting off the IGA

While no definitive “Plan B” has been determined, portions of the proposed safety campus could eventually be constructed in various locations. But ‘Plan A’ to build a campus just east of the Aperture development off Gothic Road on land given to the district by the town is officially no longer in play. In a letter to the town dated May 11, CBFPD vice president Chris McCann informed the town it was terminating the IGA that was signed June 3, 2021. That vote by the board took place Tuesday, May 10 and was 4 to 1 with board member Tina Kempin voting against termination of the IGA.

“It has recently become clear that the Town will be adding substantive, new requirements to the development of the project that make Town Parcel 1 not suitable for new emergency service facilities,” the termination letter stated. “These include but are not limited to the Town continuing to require housing as part of phase 1 of the project as well as code compliance requirements that are not presently adopted by the Town nor that were made part of the initial negotiations of the IGA. The current requirements will substantially impact the schedule and cost of the projects, and therefore, under the terms of the IGA, make development of Town Parcel 1 not suitable for new emergency service facilities.”

The original IGA signed by both the town and fire district is clear that the transfer of the property title from town to the district was, among other things, contingent upon building the affordable housing fourplex in the first phase of construction, getting BOZAR approval, and the CBFPD entering into a long-term, 99-year lease with CB Search-and-Rescue. 

Not giving up on expectations

In a press release issued last week the CBFPD said, “the District remains committed to carrying out the project approved by local voters. This includes construction of a fire station, search and rescue facilities, and employee housing, while incorporating outstanding sustainability features.”

Caffrey said the board decided to slow down and reevaluate the current situation given rapidly rising construction costs and the conditions and costs associated with getting the town property.  

“As of today (Monday, May 16) we have $29 million in funds available and own 1.8 acres just north of the Town boundary,” explained Caffrey. “We also have three other locations Mt. CB, Buckhorn Ranch and CB South so those are all potential starting points for additional facilities to serve the District moving forward. Knowing that we were going to lose the 2022 building season in any case we decided to step back and re-evaluate our options including location, scope and cost. I would expect that re-evaluation to take a few months and will be overseen by our Board of Directors.”

Crested Butte mayor Ian Billick said that while disagreeing that the housing requirement was anything new, he hoped a new tact could help the fire district better manage the sudden construction cost increases. 

“The Town wishes nothing but the best for the Fire Protection District. Hopefully pursuing an alternative location will help them manage inflationary pressures by reducing the complexity of the project,” Billick said. “For example, while the district cites the affordable housing requirement as a substantive, new requirement imposed by Town, it seems unlikely that the council would change their interpretation that the housing requirement was part of the original IGA as well as the ballot language approved by the voters.”

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