CB South growing pains part I: Multi-family projects face challenges

By Katherine Nettles

(Editor’s note: This is a series on complex development challenges underway in CB South.)

As the Crested Butte South Property Owners’ Association (POA) tries to keep pace with the building boom of the past several years, some members of the community don’t agree with the land use change process being used by the CB South governing and approval boards. Several multi-family building projects within Crested Butte South are facing delays, appeals, complications and even lawsuits as a debate mounts over whether such larger, denser projects should be allowed in certain areas. In the meantime, the POA and the Design Review Committee (DRC) are managing several development applications under scrutiny and working out kinks in the interpretations of the area’s zoning regulations while absorbing increasing legal, staff and insurance costs.

The POA is made up of several staff members and seven voluntary, elected board members. The DRC is made up of five volunteers and two alternates, overseen by the paid position of the DRC manager who is not a voting member. Generally,  POA board members are lot owners in CB South from both the commercial and residential district, and most DRC members work in the building industry. 

Longtime CB South resident and valley resident Andy Tyzzer has largely facilitated an effort to challenge certain projects and land use change processes on behalf of his CB South neighborhood. He and his wife Susan built a home in CB South in the mid 1990s, and as he stands along his property line near Cement Creek Road, he points out the survey stakes on a nearby parcel of land that has gone undeveloped for five-plus years despite at least three land use applications to the POA. 

Andy explains why he and Susan, as well as several of their neighbors, have been opposed to several iterations of projects proposed for this adjacent parcel, located at the corner of Blackstock Drive and Cement Creek Road. 

Andy says he perceives that the projects proposed by developer South Butte, LLC initially did not follow due process for things like public notices and a driveway variance. The Tyzzers and six other nearby couples, several of whom share a property line with this parcel, contend the building plans are incompatible with the more modest surrounding homes, and that those projects should not be allowed based on the POA’s recently updated zoning/filing regulations. 

Andy and several others are also opposing other duplex or multi-family projects in different areas of CB South for many of the same reasons, signing petitions and requesting appeal hearings for various approvals. Andy says he intends to keep showing up at the POA and DRC meetings to advocate for his perspective on what types of projects are allowed in certain areas and how the approval process should be handled.

This group of neighbors who are petitioning against the South Butte project and other projects believe the POA has a clear set of zoning and design regulations that it needs to buckle down on. These range from how it handles setbacks, size and image of structures, open space requirements, public notices, the process of POA staff reviewing project application completions before scheduling POA board reviews or DRC reviews, and which areas of CB South are intended to allow which types of homes. 

“It’s challenging when the regulating authorities don’t obey their own rules. It does a disservice to everybody,” says Andy. 

The first petition against a project, signed by the group of neighbors and some other nearby property owners (totaling 12 signatures), was initiated in 2019 when South Butte, LLC proposed building two duplexes on the property at the corner of Blackstock and Cement Creek Road. That project was initially denied for non-compliance with the residential design guidelines, and subsequent project applications for two duplexes there have been mired in denials by the POA, then approvals followed by appeals and even court proceedings.  

When the POA approved one duplex on the property, the same group of neighbors appealed that decision all the way to the Gunnison County level and eventually took it to Gunnison County District Court. Part of that case is still pending a decision, but the court did rule that Gunnison County must alter its Land Use Resolution (LUR) and that in the future the board of adjustment should review land use change appeals, rather than the board of county commissioners. The county has since enacted those changes.  

The group has also filed petitions opposing three other projects in different areas of CB South: a triplex on Elcho Avenue, one on Teocalli Road and in 2021, a project on Gillaspey Avenue.

Members of the group have most recently opposed a triplex on the same Cement Creek Road property adjacent to the Tyzzers which the DRC approved in March 2023 in place of one of the duplexes. The group appealed the DRC’s application approval to the POA board of directors, who considered their appeal on January 10. 

During that January POA meeting the Tyzzers both spoke on behalf of the group of petitioners.  

Andy had other issues to present that he deemed unrelated to the appeal as well.  

“I would like to draw the board’s attention to the mistake of the POA manager in certifying building applications as complete,” read Andy from a prepared statement. “This is a systemic problem in CB South, applying to the applications for Elcho townhomes as well as the South Butte triplex.” He asserted that the review process for a multi-family project, as detailed in the POA Commercial Area Master Plan (CAMP) document, was not followed for those two projects, because the applications were deemed complete by the POA manager but later deemed by the DRC to be incomplete, and in the meantime the building plans underwent changes. “This is easy to fix; the board must go back to step two, return the applications to the POA manager for certification of the revised plans and proceed with the process from there. Also, in the broader sense, the board needs to emphasize the manager’s responsibility to be diligent in correctly certifying all applications as complete.” 

That level of public scrutiny has become increasingly common in POA meetings, which the board and staff said was becoming cumbersome.

The POA board then considered the appeal complete with 10 points of contention. The POA staff and board discussed the issue, dismissing three as not qualifying for the hearing based on being submitted too late in the process. 

POA board president Andrew Sandstrom summarized his perspective based on the POA’s legal counsel and staff recommendations. 

“One of the most important pieces for us to look at is what it would take for us to actually overturn a decision by the DRC.” Sandstrom said he did not see the evidence as overwhelming enough to overturn any of the DRC decisions. “My other personal opinion is that I become more agitated that so much of the POA’s resources and time have gone to this lawsuit that continues to come back because somebody doesn’t want a development in their backyard,” he said. “In my opinion it’s a waste of our resources, it’s a waste of our time and it’s a disservice to our membership.” Sandstrom said it was clear to him that the project was an allowable use of the land within the POA’s guiding documents. 

Chelsea Stangl, Hannah Lang and Sue Schappert agreed that there was not sufficient reason to overturn the approval. The POA board then voted to uphold the DRC’s approval. Sue Schappert opposed the motion, and Rachel Gardner recused herself since she also sits on the DRC board.

Susan Tyzzer spoke during public comment on the issue with scathing opposition to the board’s perspectives. “This project has been going on for over four years,” she said, due to problem after problem. “Why? Because no one follows the rules and regulations. The applicant does not follow the rules. The DRC does not follow the rules. The board does not follow the rules. It states in the regulations that triplexes belong in the village center. That is not the village center. That’s my neighbor,” she said. “There’s beautiful homes in my neighborhood. The monstrosity that the applicant wants to put in the middle of my neighborhood would ruin it.” Susan said she and her neighbors have all appealed regarding this building, having worked locally for over 20 years. “It takes a lot to do that, does it not? The triplex will ruin this very beautiful neighborhood you see right there,” she continued, pointing to a photo she had provided on the POA overhead screen. “The worst part of this whole deal is that the value of every one of those homes you see will go down because of a triplex in the middle of it all. So, you should protect the rights of everyone in Crested Butte South, correct? But I think you need to take care of us, the locals first,” she concluded.

The developer, South Butte, LLC, did not speak during the appeals hearing and declined to comment for this story as it is engaged in active litigation on the subject.

The petitioners then filed an appeal with the county on January 24. The county’s board of adjustment determined in an initial hearing on Tuesday, February 27 that the petitioners have standing to have their appeal considered, based on the fact that the five petitioners who provided testimony (Andrew and Susan Tyzzer, Norman and Rebecca Dumas and Craig Maestro) all share a property line with the property in question. The board voted unanimously to conduct a public hearing on this case, at a time yet to be determined.

Next week we will share part II, including the perspectives of the DRC officials and more from the neighbors on their reasoning for the intense scrutiny they are giving new development in CB South. 

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