Crested Butte town council discusses future of town facilities

Sell some property? Probably not…

By Mark Reaman

On May 1 the Crested Butte town council reviewed a draft plan dealing with the many town-owned properties and was most excited by the proposed strategy of “emphasizing vitality” to the facilities in the town’s long-term future. Council was less enthused about a strategy that included “streamlining the property portfolio and reinvesting” the money, but was open to have staff come up with some potential numbers that could be generated, such as selling a property like 308 Third Street and the current fire hall. The “status quo” approach generated little enthusiasm as much for the naming and framing, but councilmembers admitted it had been successful to this point.

The draft plan included a number of general ideas, from moving the marshal’s department to the fire station when the Crested Butte Fire Protection District builds a new station near the cemetery, to creating shared community workspaces and revitalizing spaces like the old Center for the Arts building and the Four-Way Stop area.

Crested Butte long-range planner Mel Yemma said there had been public and stakeholder feedback which expressed the importance of supporting non-profits. The town controls 13 commercial buildings with 23 leases, many of them with local nonprofits renting office space.

“I’m inspired to see what we’ve built and how we can further support the community,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan, noting the extensive use of town buildings and office space by local nonprofit organizations. “I’m hesitant to streamline because once you sell something it is hard to get back. I think 20 years from now we would regret selling something.”

“I have antipathy toward streamlining,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “We’ve always kept our properties. We need spaces to foster our nonprofits. But I’d love to see the numbers to see if selling something could work.”

“I think letting something go is not good and shortsighted,” said councilmember Gabi Prochaska. “If thinking 20 years ahead, having property will be key. I am open to hearing the economic factors of selling properties, but doubtful. What are the costs of both sides? I’m all in for the vitality strategy.”

“Giving up land and buildings is something I’m really hesitant on,” said councilmember Chris Haver. “The status quo keeps us moving in the direction we’ve been heading which has been good.”

Councilmember Beth Goldstone said she agreed with keeping what the town has or perhaps partnering with an entity and selling a property, but being clear about what it could be used for.

“I’m open to seeing the numbers of selling something off to see if it leads to accomplishing other goals, but I lean toward the vitality strategy,” said councilmember Anna Fenerty. 

“So, it seems the council generally like the vitality strategy,” summarized mayor Ian Billick to the staff. “We’d also like to see some numbers to give a sense of what streamlining might be. Maybe just providing one example is a start. And what does ‘vitality’ actually mean? That’s a vague word. Maybe include feedback from our stakeholders to help define vitality.”

“Vitality to me is a great opportunity to connect the facilities in some of these envisioned community corridors,” said MacMillan.

“We need to make sure our town’s basic needs are covered no matter what strategy is used,” said councilmember Chris Haver. “That’s the number one priority. Vitality could be maximizing the spaces.”

“When I think of vitality, I think of the pump room in the fire station being used for dance classes and the pancake breakfast,” said Magner. “Places that can be used by local kids and nonprofits.”

“There is no one solution. It is meant more as a philosophy,” said community development director Troy Russ.

“The council sounds like it wants to work toward deeper solutions and long-term solutions,” said Billick. “And like Jason said, location and adjacencies matter.”

“Another piece is keeping the places affordable for our valuable nonprofits that give us so much,” said Magner.

“Let’s let them tell us what is important,” said Billick.

“Finding symbiotic relationships will be important too. Space sharing for example can work well for everyone and keep it affordable,” said MacMillan relaying the example of the Mountain Theatre and the CB School of Dance talking about the potential of sharing the Mallardi Theatre space.

“I would love to see the Four-Way area revitalized,” said Billick. “That is a key spot in town with so much potential.”

Council also briefly touched on other future facility topics such as the need for more childcare spaces, the possibility of helping local tradespeople like electricians and plumbers that might need space and participating in the development of facilities like a Rec Center or Senior Center. The staff will continue to fine tune the Facilities Use Plan based on council’s feedback. The goal is to have a final draft of the plan by summer.

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