Plans for luxury resort in Crystal encounter some hurdles

Stop work order in place from unauthorized road improvements

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

In the 15 months since two developers near Crystal publicly detailed their vision of a year-round luxury resort along the Crystal River, the developers have encountered a few complications due to unauthorized road building. It now appears the project is being reimagined somewhat while the developers perform remediation required by Gunnison County. They have yet to submit a land use change application to the county’s community and economic development department, but they did secure a state permit to dig a well and say they should have a new set of plans this spring.

Fifth generation Crystal resident Chris Cox owns mining claims in and around Crystal totaling about 700 acres. Most of the property is situated along Forest Service Road 314 in the Crystal townsite vicinity and alongside the Crystal River. Cox and his development partner, Stuart Gillespie, have named the property Treasure Mountain Resort (TMR) and told the Marble board of trustees in late 2021 that they planned to propose developing 20 cabins, a farm to table restaurant and onsite employee housing on 15 acres there. The resort would offer hiking, fishing and horseback riding in the summer and both snowcat-based and unguided ski operations in the winter. 

Cox and Gillespie also discussed the project at that time with Gunnison County officials. Cox said he intended to place a conservation easement on the majority of his parcel to preserve the old Crystal Mill site and ghost town of Crystal City. The plan also called for sustainable building materials and renewable energy, and using shuttle services to reduce parking and crowding impacts in the Marble area.

In the time since, Gunnison County issued TMR a stop work order in the fall of 2021, followed by a $12,000 fine for violations in the summer of 2022 for unauthorized road improvements that TMR carried out on the property in 2021. The county also issued several requirements for remediation that have not yet been fully settled. 

In a stop work order/notice of violation from Gunnison County dated November 1, 2021, assistant county manager for community and economic development Cathie Pagano stated, “the county received several complaints in early September regarding the improvement of roads originating in the townsite of Crystal and going up to Crystal and Bear Peaks and crossing multiple mining claims owned by Treasure Mountain Ranch.” 

Pagano noted that during a planning commission site visit to TMR she had viewed and photographed the improvements.  “I notified you via phone in September that you could not conduct any additional road improvement or construction activity at the site,” she wrote.

Pagano further stated that the road cutting warranted at least a minor impact land use change permit, and would now require remediation along with an analysis by a Colorado-licensed engineer. This was to include plans for water quality protection, grading and erosion control, drainage and stormwater management, engineer-approved roads and mitigation of impacts to water bodies during spring snow melt. 

TMR submitted plans related to these requirements in February 2022. Pagano informed TMR in May 2022 that the improvements to the roads on TMR property did not meet the Gunnison County Road and Bridge Standards and approval of the improvements. 

“Because the roads were improved without appropriate permits and a waiver cannot be processed prior to land use change approval,” wrote Pagano, the county would require the roads be physically barricaded to prevent use and travel, the erosion control, drainage plan, and grading described in TMR’s plans would need to be implemented to the satisfaction of Gunnison County, and the county would conduct  inspections in the spring and fall to ensure that the proposed remediation measures were adequate. 

“Once the above items have been completed to the satisfaction of Gunnison County, TMR will be able to submit any County permit applications that they choose. A land use change permit process will also include review and appropriate permitting of all roads in the development application. If the Land Use Change application is not approved the roads may need to be reclaimed and returned to their prior state.”

Gunnison County has received payment from TMR for the site visit and updated photos showing adequate installation of barricades on the roads and an attestation that the roads will not be utilized by TMR owners, employees or guests until approved by Gunnison County. Another site visit in the spring of 2023 will determine if remediation measures have been adequate. 

“Gunnison County will not lift the stop work order and notice of violation at least until an inspection has been completed in the spring of 2023 to verify that the mitigation and remediation measures have worked as intended. Please reach out next spring when enough snowmelt has occurred for Gunnison County to inspect the area,” concluded Pagano.

Cox and Gillespie have responded to the News’ request for comments, saying that they still intend to move forward. 

“Our team at Treasure Mountain Ranch, Inc. recognizes that the ~700-acre property outside the Town of Crystal is a special place to many in our community. Since announcing the proposed development 15 months ago, we’ve conducted over 50 meetings in order to solicit feedback from neighbors, community members, local elected officials, advocacy organizations, and government agencies and are excited about the potential to create a win-win outcome. We see this as minimizing development, preserving the area’s historic structures, maintaining public access to view the Crystal Mill, and putting as much land into conservation as possible while at the same time delivering a return for our shareholders. To further these objectives, we’re planning a collaborative workshop this spring with local stakeholders. Our hope is to introduce a revised development plan that incorporates feedback from the workshop later this year,” wrote Gillespie.

Gillespie also confirmed that TMR has secured a permit from the Division of Water Resources to drill a water well on the property, and has begun to do so.

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