Split council vote puts RV Dump Station in no man’s land

It will be up to the full board

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

With two Crested Butte town council representatives, Jason MacMillan and Chris Haver, missing from the November 21 meeting for the holiday week, the council left the fate of the RV Dump Station in limbo until a future meeting can be held where all seven councilmembers can participate and vote.

Because only three of five councilmembers voted Monday to keep the RV Station open, that essentially meant that no decision was made since under town rules at least four votes are needed to take action. In this case mayor Ian Billick along with councilwomen Anna Fenerty and Gabi Prochaska voted for a motion to keep the site open while implementing mitigation measures to blunt the impacts of RVs to the neighborhood and Mallika Magner and Beth Goldstone voted against the motion.

The location of what is now the North Valley’s only available RV Dump Station near the Crested Butte wastewater treatment plant at Butte Avenue and Eighth Street has been a controversial issue for years with a previous council voting to keep it open for two years while a new location was investigated. But that never happened for a variety of reasons and town staff was asking the current council about the budget implications associated with keeping it open next summer and beyond.

Many neighbors have vociferously complained that the site attracts dangerous RVs to the neighborhood that speed and present clear threats to the residential neighborhood. Governmental partners of the town including the county, the town of Mt. Crested Butte, the U.S. Forest Service, the regional STOR (Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation) committee and city of Gunnison all indicated that while they had empathy for any neighborhood impact, they considered the RV Dump Station a critical piece of the tourism infrastructure.

Staff presented the pros and cons of different alternatives ultimately recommending that the station stay open where it is while the town adds traffic calming measures and assess a possible relocation if a utility extension occurs to the county’s proposed Whetstone affordable housing site south of town. 

That would provide enough additional flow to handle the RV dumping at a place outside of town, probably at Avalanche Park by the Baxter Gulch trailhead. One alternative suggested by council earlier in the fall was to move it around the corner from its current location onto Eighth Street. But staff said while that would cost approximately $200,000, the bigger problem was adding more water flow to push the waste to the treatment plant that could impair state flow standards.

Public comment was relatively subdued on the matter at the November 21 meeting.

“All the RVs that use the dump go by my house and I’m asking you to keep it open,” said neighborhood resident Chris Keogh. “I have never had a problem with the RVs and in fact have become friends with some of those that have used the station. Traffic can be a concern but there are a lot worse drivers than the RV drivers.”

Mimi Chatwood lives on Teocalli Avenue between Sixth Street and the dump station. “We have a different experience than Chris. The RVs come by here far faster than 15 miles per hour all summer,” she said. “There was a petition signed by 140 residents that is very telling and not wanting to see the dump stay there. Everyone not dealing with it, like the county or Mt. Crested Butte, are thrilled with where it is. But the neighborhood is not thrilled with it as we have to deal with the additional traffic. Take into consideration the neighborhood.”

The Mt. CB council sent the CB council a letter of support for keeping the existing facility open. “We support the Town of Crested Butte in keeping the dump station open for financial, environmental, and community-related reasons while continuing to focus on the best use of the facility,” the letter read.

Billick tried to steer the council to determining whether the dump station should be kept open or closed and not consider whether it could be placed between the wastewater treatment plant and potential Whetstone development in the future. “If that development happens it would be an option, but I think the decision tonight is whether to close it or keep it open with mitigation measures.”

Fenerty asked if better signage and traffic calming measures like placing flower boxes in the street could be used next summer. Community development director Troy Russ said that could certainly happen. 

“We have traffic issues throughout town, and everyone is feeling the impact of more people driving faster,” said Fenerty who relayed she had come close to getting hit by a car while walking to the council meeting that night. “The pressure is real for everyone. But it is everywhere in town, and I think we should keep it open.”

Prochaska wanted the council to “acknowledge” that the dump will be in the densest part of Crested Butte once the Sixth and Butte affordable housing project is up and occupied. “I think it is important to always be looking for alternative places to relocate it,” she said.

“It is the densest part of town and it is filled with locals. It is where the workforce lives,” added Magner. “I have been persuaded by the petition and think we should close it.”

Goldstone said she wanted staff to keep actively looking for alternative locations, especially if town made a utility extension for Whetstone, and she said she was struggling with the implication made by the previous council that if no other location was found in two years, the site would be decommissioned.

“We as a council can do whatever we want,” said Billick. “I’m in favor of keeping it open. We are a tourist town. What we are seeing there in terms of traffic is not disproportionate to other parts of town. I would have liked to move it around the corner but understand why it is we can’t.”

Fenerty moved to keep it open while implementing mitigation efforts for the neighborhood. When that only received three votes the writing was on the wall so the council asked staff to reschedule the issue for a future meeting when all seven members of the town council will be available to vote. Billick asked the councilmembers wanting specific mitigation measures to be very clear with town staff what those measures should be before the next discussion is held.

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