Future Land Use map sparks concern during Mt. CB master plan discussion

But overall, Master Plan well-received 

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

The Mt. Crested Butte town council and planning commission made it clear they are listening to their constituents during a work session Monday night to go over the town’s draft Master Plan. While the consensus was positive for the overall Master Plan draft, the panel and public comment did not favor the proposed Future Land Use map that would change certain neighborhoods from low density residential to medium or high density.

The Master Plan is required by Colorado State Statute and is a policy document that helps shape future development of a community. “This document does not create regulation, only recommendations for how those regulations might look in the future,” said deputy community development director Hillary Seminick.

As part of the Master Plan process, the town engaged with approximately 800 community members through meetings, surveys, town events, the Crested Butte Farmers Market and social media campaigns.

“The feedback we received was consistent. The number one issue in our community is housing for locals,” said Seminick. “In the past 10 years, the average home price has increased 187%. Only two community housing units have been constructed in 10 years.”

The other top priorities include parks and trails and improving the base area. Seminick noted that with 71% of the town made up of of second homes and short-term rentals and 29% of the town made up full-time occupants, the small full-time population is a constraint to commercial activity and vitality due to lack of consistent demand throughout the year. 

Town staff also explained that any developments currently under town review, such as the proposed North Village and Prospect projects, are not addressed in the Master Plan draft because it has not yet been adopted and instead fall under the town’s 2007 community plan recommendations. 

“I understand why community members might not understand why we’re not addressing certain developments,” said Seminick. “We cannot consider something that doesn’t have entitlements right now in this document.”

Seminick noted that the town received the most public comment that she or planning partner Norris Design had ever seen in their planning work. “To get this amount of public engagement you should be proud,” she said. 

Future Land Use map

As part of the Master Plan and one way to address the housing needs and base area vitality, a proposed Future Land Use map was included in the Master Plan draft. It maps out future land use designations, such as where the commercial core and community facilities are located, as well as appropriate locations for low, medium and high-density residential areas. 

However, community feedback showed concern for the proposed changes of low-density residential neighborhoods to medium and high-density areas. “The future land use map was the most often cited area of concern and most wanted it revisited,” said Seminick of Master Plan draft feedback. 

The evening’s public comment was also dominated by concerns for the residential density changes and how the map could become a template for zoning changes. 

“Mt. CB has enough high-density residential capacity in the core area including several open/undeveloped lots, so why more high density residential in existing neighborhoods?” said Kathy Hooge. “There are future water issues, traffic issues and housing issues already. If you make Castle and Crystal high-density then you will ruin our neighborhood and encourage investment growth which will lead to even less housing for those of us who are working locals.” Hooge referenced the Marcellina Apartments (now Timbers) that were built for local workers. “A past town council let that be sold and made into condos…what are we going to do in the future if another town council says, hey let’s sell that off?” she said. “Bottom line, it is not correct to up-zone already established, single-family, low-density residential/medium-density residential neighborhoods when the commercial core is the obvious place for high-density residential.”

“Don’t mix high density and medium density with single family residences,” said Bob Brutsch. “Don’t do harm while you’re trying to do some good.”

“Revitalize some of the existing facilities,” said Tom Rolleczeck. “There is still a lot to be developed there at the base area. We all want more from that area and there’s a lot of opportunities.” 

“Like most other Mt. CB property owners, we moved here to leave behind the urban density, traffic, noise, pollution, etc. We love the way Mt. CB is now – quiet; 1/2 acre lots; great outdoor access; decent mix of single-family homes and base area condos / hotels,” said Matthew Peirson. “It is inevitable that the proposed increased density would degrade the quality of life for every resident. It will mean more traffic, noise, pollution, conflicts, crime, dog poop, etc.”

Town staff reiterated that the Future Land Use map is not a zoning map. “It’s very layered, we need to look at it in that way,” said Tory Aidala of Norris Design. “There’s other code, traffic studies, etc. that apply…we’re not saying we’re putting 200 units next to you, we’re still making sure it makes sense in that spot.” 

Council and planning commission thoughts

 “I felt like it was more of a template for other mountain towns and we are very different from other mountain towns. Applying that template to our town to assume we can handle future growth, that we need to have all this affordable housing when we haven’t even investigated that we need as much as being proposed here,” said planning commission member Nancy Grindlay. “What are the industries we have in the town of Mt. Crested Butte? We have Vail [Resorts], the core area, town employees, EMT people, Mt. CB Water and San…other than that what are the major jobs we’re providing? Seasonal housing is the main demand as far as I can tell and I think Vail is working toward helping with that and I think that’s something we can help with our regional partners. I don’t really see the driving job demand for all the proposed community housing.”

“Why is the future land use document written the way it is considering how much available high density multi-family undeveloped land exists?” asked planning commission member Dusty Demerson. 

“Is it aggressive? Yes,” said Seminick. 

“Through this master plan process we’ve identified problems within the town,” said community development director Carlos Velado. “The most prominent was community housing. One tool you can use is density. When we created this Future Land Use map, it identified where all that additional density could happen. It wasn’t going to get approved in this form. It was a way to identify places where it might make sense to address some of the issues.”

“Has the team considered any way to incentivize development of those existing properties?” asked Demerson. 

“We do have recommendations that go beyond density to consider different policies that would incentivize community housing development,” said Seminick. “I do think as a town we should consider our housing guidelines.”

Almost every member of the panel of planning commission members and town council members expressed the desire to nix the proposed future land use map as presented in the Master Plan draft. 

“Throw this future land use map out because specifically we have a zoning map that covers everything as far as high-density areas,” said council member Dwayne Lehnertz. “There is no need to change single family districts into medium density and high density.”

“Up-zoning existing areas to provide affordable housing will negatively impact those residents that already live here,” said Grindlay. “There are far better land use options to address the problem just a few miles down the road. We can be regional partners with those developments. We can give money and resources, we can contribute. That doesn’t mean we have to build the housing in the town.”

Council member Roman Kolodziej was open to looking at the future land use map further. “I’d like to take this map and massage it a bit more. I’d like to look into getting statistics into other like communities that have done something like this. I hear concerns of high density area off of Belleview and would like to see what changes can happen with that, but I’d like more explanation of what realistic development might look like on some of those areas. I’d like to hear more specific concerns from the community about what their great fear is of a duplex being one or two or five units down from them. There’s obviously concern, but very few specifics.”

“We haven’t been able to come up with numbers relative to our labor shortage,” said council member Steve Morris. “I feel there’s a massive gap of insufficient data to justify these changes…I struggle to find moving density out of that core when we haven’t seen that need. Zoning is a promise and people do base their lives off of zoning and the decisions they make. I would like to build up in the base area. I’d like to see the hard core commercial core maxed out.”

Council member Michael Bacani agreed, “Until we’ve built out all the high density that’s available, there’s a reason why these aren’t being built out right now. Let’s find out why and incentivize it. At some point when that’s all built out, we can revisit something else.” 

I feel like it’s a little bit of a shame this has been focused so much on the Future Land Use map and not the Master Plan as a whole,” said mayor Nicholas Kempin. The council commended the town staff’s hard work and overall Master Plan. Bacani agreed, “I trashed the first version of the Master Plan, but this one seems above and beyond professional. The presentation and data and narratives, this is a fabulous job,” he said. 

Town staff heard the message loud and clear, and agreed the Future Land Use map would not change any of the residential areas as they appear on the town’s current zoning map. “We’ll still need to have something that reflects the intent of our community, but not as aspirational as what’s presented in the draft,” said Seminick. 

“I think there should be a future land use map in the Master Plan, but it should reflect the current residential zoning map,” agreed Velado. 

Base area group weighs in

Through the Master Plan process, the property owners of the base area have been meeting with each other and the town to discuss the vision for the base area. These property owners include Jeff Hermanson (Urban Villages), Nick Klaus (Elevation), Erica Sollberger (Lodge at Mountaineer Square Commercial), Richard Divine (Solstice & Club Properties), Tara Schoedinger (CBMR) and Ethan Mueller (Treasury Center).

In a letter submitted for public comment, the base area owners shared, “Each of our organizations believes in a positive future of Mt. Crested Butte and are excited to work together along with the whole community to realize our shared vision. We have appreciated the opportunity to be involved, each in different capacities, with the planning process including serving on stakeholder committees, focus groups and community meetings. While the process to create the current draft plan was lengthy and took many turns, it resulted in a document that will help realize our town’s fullest potential…With new investment being planned for the Elevation Hotel, the old Avalanche building, the Ski Club, and the surrounding area, this is an opportune time to catalyze further redevelopment that follows the principles of the Plan. As a group of base-area owners, we are committed to working together and with the Town and DDA to help realize the vision of this plan.”

The letter concludes, “We look forward to participating in further community process to refine the vision for Mt. Crested Butte. We offer our support to work through implementation tactics and other solutions moving forward.”

 “I’m thrilled the base area owners are meeting and talking to each other,” said Demerson. 

“I’d like some clarification from the base area group regarding what they’re expecting from this process vs. what we might be expecting from them,” said Kolodziej.

“What this plan recommends is the guardrails for someone to provide a development application,” said Seminick. “We can create code and regulations, but it’s really up to the base area owners to come forth with applications.” 

“I hope they seriously read those 86 pages (of the Master Plan), in particular parts about the core area,” said council member Janet Farmer. 

“We provided them with a lot of free research,” said Seminick. 

Town staff will now amend the draft Future Land Use map and related goals, policies and recommendations based on public, downtown development authority (DDA), Planning Commission and town council feedback.

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