CB ready to have more discussion over Whetstone project

First step is an informational memo

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The Crested Butte town council wants to be kept in the loop with what is happening with Gunnison County’s affordable housing Whetstone project. The proposal is located on 15 acres owned by Gunnison County a couple miles south of Crested Butte off Highway 135 near Riverland and the county and town have been talking about extending town utilities to service the development’s water and sewer needs.

County residents George Gibson and Nan Lumb have reached out to the town to urge them to become more involved and vocal over the proposed 200 plus unit development. They have expressed concerns over the location of the larger buildings near the highway, the ultimate population numbers of the development, and whether the subdivision would be transit friendly.

The town has written a letter to the county planning commission expressing that it too wants to make sure the residents have good access to bus service. The town has encouraged a roundabout along the highway at Whetstone that includes an underpass which would allow residents to walk under the highway to safely get to a bus stop. The town has also insisted that at least 80% of the units approved for Whetstone be deed restricted and the county has agreed to that minimum number. 

Gibson urged the council during the public comment section at the November 7 meeting to actively address the issues associated with Whetstone. “We need the council to weigh in while the dialogue is going on,” he said insisting that Whetstone was not a transit-based community. “The Community Compass says the town values the rural feeling we have in the surrounding area and this proposed layout is in direct conflict to the values of the Compass with the largest buildings located right on the highway. You have leverage and now is the time to make the development right and keep it moving ahead.”

At the end of the council meeting several councilmembers circled back to the idea and wanted to perhaps take a deeper dive into the Whetstone process than is currently being done by town.

Mayor Ian Billick reminded them that unlike the contentious Brush Creek housing proposal, the town was not an owner in the property. “It is a county process, and we don’t have any ownership in the parcel,” he said. “We can and we have provided comments to the planners.”

“I think we should have the discussion,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “It will certainly have impacts on town.”

“I am nervous having a couple of individuals drive our agenda,” said Billick. “We have given the county a letter and commented on the transit issues.”

Councilmember Chris Haver said having the council receive an update on the project’s progress would be a good thing and he suggested starting with a staff memo giving the current lay of the land.

“It would be good to refresh us all on the history and the issues that are percolating up from people like George and Nan,” agreed Magner.

“I am hearing other concerns as well,” said councilmember Beth Goldstone. “So that would be helpful.”

“It should also then lay out the decision tree for us and our leverage points,” said Billick. “That would include the possibility of using our utility services. We should ask ourselves what our general strategy around land use and transit is.”

Town manager Dara MacDonald said the county has been receptive to the specific concerns expressed by the town. She also said the town staff considers the proposal to be transit friendly. 

She had planned to provide an update to the council over the negotiations taking place concerning a utility extension to the site. She said she will gather information to put in a memo addressing the concerns raised by Gibson and Lumb and updating the council on the general process and direction of the project for the meeting on November 21.

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