May observations

Some quick observations in the middle of May as the snow keeps melting and the tourists are still just a trickle:

This is an observation pointed out to me about the sometimes desolate CB downtown business vibe. Twenty years ago, there was a group of young, motivated entrepreneurs buying property or opening interesting businesses on Elk Avenue. These days, much of the business core has been bought up by wealthy businesspeople. The big difference is that a young, local businessperson is hungry and needs to have cash flowing to pay the rent or mortgage. There is no wasting time. The billionaire or multi-millionaire might eventually do something cool and interesting but there is no urgency, so our downtown is filled with too much emptiness. Sure, there will in theory be vibrant businesses setting up shop eventually, but it sure doesn’t look like it will be any time super soon. And when it does happen, if the price point must reflect even a fraction of the upgrade costs, will locals be able to afford whatever is being sold? Just an interesting observation…

The quandary of how to provide and pay for the North Valley’s Late Night Taxi service has come up again. Any community should have a valid option for its citizens to safely get home after a night out on the town. As a resort community, it is something that should not even be a question for residents and visitors. If we ask people to come and party and spend their vacation dollars in our bars and restaurants, we can’t really say to them, “thanks, but the bus is done for the night and good luck finding your way back to the Elevation Hotel or Grand Lodge that’s only three miles up the highway in a snowstorm.” Lame.

So, Mountain Express managing director Jeremy Herzog is making the rounds to get the funds to pay for the needed late-night service. The RTA has put in $60,000. The town of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte are likely in for $116,000. As CB councilmember Mallika Magner noted — “What else can we do?” I’d say nothing.

Providing that service is something that can’t even be a question really. Yeah, it’s not cheap at about $60 a rider but there’s a reason no private Uber driver is jumping on the idea of making bank driving drunks home at 2 in the morning. The first time an over indulger leaves a reminder of the tequila fun in the back seat is probably the last late night taxi trip for that car. I don’t care if the fare is $60 or $600, cleaning up party puke is not for the faint of heart. Plus hanging out at 1 a.m. nodding off waiting for the rush can’t be any fun. So, I would say the contributions of the two towns and the RTA is a good investment and a necessary expenditure for a resort community.

I’m a fairly simple guy and I like fairly simple things. On the new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) rental pool qualifications in the town of Crested Butte, simple is not the path being taken by the council. It’s probably simpler than a lot of the other deed restrictions in the valley but it won’t be simple for the homeowners considering the building of a new ADU. The town’s housing director mentioned a couple meetings ago that the town should have something ‘easily understood and administered.’ In other words, simple. Requiring renters to prove years of residency and figuring out the number of hours worked in a year or determining if learning how to lay pipe or taking X number of classes at Western counts, might be simple for the government workers whose job it is to figure that stuff out on a regular basis but I’d observe it means more paperwork than needed and isn’t really that simple for the average person trying to simply provide a good thing. I liked the original idea of keeping new ADU restrictions really simple and focusing workforce requirements in other affordable housing developments. What’s wrong with requiring ADU owners to simply offer a minimum six-month lease as is now the case? That sounds like it would get the demographic everyone wants – someone turning on the lights and being in the community. But hey, I’m a simple guy. 

In the simple vein, I still don’t understand the logic of the Mt. Crested Butte town council in prohibiting its councilmembers from participating in policy discussion and voting over Zoom. It works everywhere else and the decision just seems so ‘90s…1890s.

The idea of the Crested Butte council raising rents for town-owned spaces is not horrible since many rents also seem stuck in the ‘90s. Raising rent to help cover increasing costs of maintaining old buildings is fair. 

That said, I am glad the council will revisit its policy over how to determine rents and grants for local non-profit organizations. Not every local non-profit can mature into a quasi-business that grows to the point of having broad, experienced staff with CEOs and financial officers and operations facilitators. Many of our local non-profits do the good work on a shoestring and there is also no reason they all have to be treated the same. Let’s be honestly simple and make a value judgment and admit there is a difference between say, a High Country Conservation Advocates watchdog that is digging deep to make sure a global mining company is held accountable through the state and U.S. government as opposed to, say, the CB Snow Collection Club that is busy extolling the virtue of melting snowbanks on the community.

The one thing that I think really needs to be reconsidered in the policy is the pushing of any renter to the edge of the plank every five years. If a valued non-profit has been a good tenant, paid the rent on time and takes care of the space, there is no reason they should face the threat of losing their town rental space through a lottery every five years. 

It’s probably time for me to come out and confess… I’ve touched the pickleball vortex and am being swept up in its weird plunk of wiffle fun. To be clear in my observation — I am not the oldest nor am I the youngest player in the valley as I’ve pickled both in CB and Gunnison with people 20 years older and 20 years younger than me. It’s great. 

I saw an online comment that pickleball can’t be considered a sport because it is something you can hear about for the first time at breakfast and be pretty good at it by lunch. Fair. And that’s also probably one of the reasons, to the horror of serious tennis players everywhere, people are hopping on the pickle train. Word has it that Mt. CB plans to resurface one of its tennis courts to pickleball courts at the Wedding Garden this summer. That’s a sign the council is leaving the 1890s and addressing the future.

As much as I like the action — that’s right people, there’s action! — one of the last places I’d want to have a house is next to a pickleball court. Just the idea of having that pickle thwap sound echoing around for hours when I was trying to read or chat or work would be rough. But hey, if you’re on the court, there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of the pickle paddle pounding the ball to your opponent’s feet. 

Don’t scoff at the pickleball vortex – if you accidentally give it a try you might find yourself getting sucked in the thwap as well. You wouldn’t be the first.

It is the middle of May. The days are still getting longer and the snow will eventually melt out. Coal Creek hasn’t hit its peak, but the Slate is pumping over its banks in spots. Enjoy these remaining weeks of off-season and see you on the court. 

—Mark Reaman

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