Crested Butte helping to keep eye on state land use proposal

Measure could impact zoning in CB

By Mark Reaman

A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature is giving some small towns like Crested Butte heartburn. 

As proposed, Senate Bill 23-213 would make major changes to land use policies in the state and hopes to expand the types of housing allowed in different areas. It would essentially take some zoning decisions out of the hands of local and home rule municipalities and give them to the state. 

 Crested Butte and 14 other ski resort communities are classified as “rural resort job center municipalities” which comes with state rules that override local regulations. The bill would legalize the building of more housing types and reduce building limitations for homeowners. It also regulates accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a use-by-right (without deed restrictions), middle housing such as multi-family properties between two and six units and key transit corridors. 

Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald and town attorney Karl Hanlon have both been extensively involved with communicating with other similar communities and trying to soften the legislation’s impact on small towns. MacDonald said that the legislation as introduced is concerning for Crested Butte as it would eliminate the Town’s ability to require ADUs to be rented long-term and eliminate BOZAR review and design guidelines for ADUs and multi-family up to six units.  It would also tie the Town’s hands on inclusionary zoning requirements like the ROAH (affordable housing) fee.  Due to a lack of understanding of market conditions in rural resorts the unintended consequence of the bill would result in fewer affordable units being constructed in town.

MacDonald and Hanlon reported to the town council at the April 3 meeting that several representatives from ski area communities had what was described as a “promising” discussion with representatives of the governor’s office last week. MacDonald said there were indications that some of the more controversial language and ideas in the proposed legislation could be eliminated or altered through the amendment process. But that process has not yet started, and no amendments have been put forward.

“There is a flurry happening at the statehouse around this,” said MacDonald. “We felt good about the dialogue but haven’t seen any concrete changes yet. The CAST (Colorado Association of Ski Towns) communities oppose this bill unless it is amended. We want to be a partner with this idea, not just be told what to do when we have been doing things in this area for 30 years.”

“There is a lot of politics going on with this and it’s not friendly politics right now,” Hanlon told the council. “Until we see actual amendments, we are sticking by the oppose or amend stance. The CAST position is pretty universal across the 15 communities in the group. That consistency is great.”

MacDonald said the tactic of using persuasion and showing state officials what has been done seems to be making progress. If that direction stalls out, she anticipates a more confrontational approach might have to be taken with the state over the legislation.

“The concern is that zoning is the most local thing for home rule communities,” said Hanlon. “If that goes away, everything would be on the table at the whim of the state legislature. Amendments will be the trust building exercise so let’s wait and see how it progresses, but this will start rolling quickly since the legislative session is ending in about a month.”

Mt. Crested Butte town manager Carlos Velado said his understanding was that the legislation will not directly affect Mt. CB “as we are not large enough to be classified as a Rural Resort Job Center (but just barely). The threshold is a minimum population of 1,000.”

During their April 5 meeting, the Mt. Crested Butte town council discussed the proposed bill and unanimously agreed to sign a letter in opposition. 

“This is a really terrible thing,” said new community development director Neal Starkebaum, noting the loss of home rule and local zoning control. “And we’re kind of on that population cusp. We would not be subject to it if it became law, but certainly if we were to grow in the next few years then we would.” 

“This is a big deal,” said Mt. CB mayor Nicholas Kempin. “If the state gets away with doing this, then what’s the next thing? I believe it’s still something we should oppose on principal.”

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