CB council focused on potential utility extension with Whetstone

Town public comment session in February 

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

The Crested Butte town council this week gave the go-ahead to continue working with Gunnison County and researching the viability of providing water and sewer services to the proposed Whetstone affordable housing project south of town. But they indicated they were hesitant to delve into details of things like design and building locations since the review is part of a Gunnison County process and not a project with direct town oversight. The town has officially commented to the county planning commission on the need for a good transit system for the project paired with a highway roundabout that includes a pedestrian underpass to help with traffic flow. Councilmembers have also insisted at least 80% of the units be deed restricted, but they have generally shied away from commenting on other potential impacts of the development on the town

The town has received several written and in-person requests from North Valley residents asking them to comment on issues like the currently proposed location of the development’s largest buildings being right next to the highway. Citizens have said the placement of those buildings goes against the stated town value of retaining a rural feel in the North Valley. And while being clear that a utility extension agreement could include any conditions the council wanted, councilmembers said such an agreement was too far in the future to talk about what any such conditions might be.

The town council plans to hold a work session on the project and provide time for public comment on the Whetstone issue on February 21.

Councilmember Anna Fenerty said she expects local residents to speak on a variety of issues and not just the utility extension. Councilmember Gabi Prochaska said she wanted details on the fiscal impacts of the project on the town. Councilmember Beth Goldstone wanted to make sure citizen feedback could be on a variety of topics.

“I think the public will have a lot to say independent of our town process,” said mayor Ian Billick. “They should have the opportunity to share their feedback. People will say whatever they say and that’s great. We’ve already heard from 10 or 15 people and we want to hear from everyone who has something to say.”

During the public comment section of the January 17 council meeting, Skyland resident George Gibson again brought up his concerns that the project was more car-based than transit focused, and he reiterated his uneasiness about the location of the biggest buildings. He wanted to make sure public concerns brought to the council and voiced by the town to the county would have time to be considered and potentially changed by the county.

Later in the meeting, Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ explained that while the town can include any requirements it wants in a future utility extension agreement, the county commissioners are the ones with the final say over approval of the project.

Unlike the previous Corner at Brush Creek housing proposal, the town is not an ownership partner in the proposed development site and Billick agreed with Russ and reemphasized that aspect of the oversight process. “This is a county process and it is their review,” he said. “They have a public process and people should participate in that. We can do whatever we want if they want an agreement for our utilities. We can put on any conditions we desire, and we have indicated some. But we should be cautious. There is no assumption of approval.”

Billick was clear that while the project was not simple, it did not need to get more complicated by the town throwing out more conditions. “At some point we’ll have to make a decision,” he said. “If we want the project to happen, we can work to make it happen. There will be a lot more discussion on Whetstone.” 

The next discussion will happen at the county on Thursday, January 19. The town will be holding its public comment meeting on February 21.

As for the potential utility extension, Russ said the county has looked at three possible sources including the town. The needed technical analysis for a town extension is expected to take many months into the late summer or fall at the earliest. A robust public engagement process will also take place before council makes a decision on a utility extension.

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