CB Compass moves to historic preservation and climate action

Hoping for a ton of public engagement

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte town council, along with members of the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR), sat down in February to discuss two more of the town’s planning processes involved in implementing the Community Compass. The work session centered on the Historic Preservation Plan (HPP) and the Climate Action Plan (CAP). Those, along with the Transportation Mobility Plan and the Strategic Infill Plan, comprise four major planning processes that are being developed in an integrated manner to comprehensively meet the goals of the Community Compass.  

With the HPP discussion, the BOZAR and council members agreed that it was a good goal to maintain a human scale going forward while preserving the history of Crested Butte and allowing architectural diversity. Staff asked the officials to consider defining the architectural role of town in fostering community connectiveness.

“There should be an appreciation for the various time periods of Crested Butte’s history,” said BOZAR member Ed Schmidt. “It’s important to keep in mind the broad span of the town.”

“What brought you to town or made you appreciate the town after arriving? I appreciated the scale. It was a friendly, dirtbag ski town,” said BOZAR member Donny Davol. “I really like carrying on the feel of Crested Butte, the wood buildings versus the brick buildings. How do we put those in the plan’s success measures?”

“People say they came here because it was a cool little town,” added BOZAR member Erik Nauman. “These days, more money is influencing the look and feel of the new buildings. It is becoming less rough around the edges.”

“I like the rough around the edges elements,” said BOZAR member Roxana Alvarez Marti. “Moving ahead we see people wanting to clean things up, gentrifying the built community. We don’t want to look like a faux ski town environment.”

“How will incorporating climate preparedness, for example mitigating wildfire impacts like allowing fake wood porches, be considered? How does that affect the look of the historic core,” asked councilmember Anna Fenerty. 

“A future step after this plan is completed is a revision of the municipal code that could address things like that,” said senior Crested Butte planner Jessie Earley. “That will be a big discussion in 2025.”

“Preservation is one of the strongest ways to manage carbon emissions,” added Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ.

“I would hate to see the town preserved for five years and then burn up because we didn’t allow things that might help with mitigation for wildfire,” said mayor Ian Billick.

“I would like to see good environmental practices included in BOZAR review,” said councilmember Gabi Prochaska.

“It makes sense to not use certain materials because they’re flammable,” said Fenerty. “We have to consider more than just how it looks.”

“It is important to acknowledge modern technology and the advances in building materials,” said councilmember Mallika Magner. “To have efficient fire-resistant buildings instead of requiring outdated building materials is important. I hear complaints that BOZAR requires outdated, inefficient materials.”

“That’s not true,” responded Nauman. 

“Current guidelines don’t prohibit things like glazing windows,” added Davol. “We do ask for data that proves it will do what it claims.”

“A person can come in with triple pane windows and that is acceptable,” said Alvarez Marti. “There are mechanisms for that. The nuance is with designated historic buildings. You can’t change them too much without losing that historic designation. There are constraints we’re bound by to keep the historic district designation of Crested Butte.”

“The design guidelines have good sustainability tips but they are mainly in the appendix so we can’t enforce them,” said BOZAR member Luz Spann Labato.

“BOZAR is asked to enforce what is in the code,” added Schmidt. “There is nothing in the code that prohibits using 2023 building materials.”

“Except cost,” noted Fenerty.

Preservation consultant Sam Clauson, who is working to help craft the HPP, said that “new buildings should be a product of their time. But they should retain the scale and pedestrian elements that make Crested Butte what it is. Considering something like a potential wildfire is very important. We are going to work to integrate the concerns being voiced.”

“I hear the consensus is that there is an interest in finding a balance with preservation and climate concerns,” said Billick.

“The spirit of the BOZAR guidelines is to encourage small, sustainable, efficient homes that shed snow,” said Nauman. “But very few people come in to BOZAR with plans for a small, efficient house. Most come in with the max, in part for the future investment potential. We deal with these guidelines, and they are moving forward. They don’t need a huge change. There are now differing desires pushing the changes and much of it is to make money.”

Russ said success measures adopted for the HPP are meant to facilitate these types of conversations. He also said that the town code needs to be made clearer and more user-friendly. “We need to clarify expectations,” he said.

Keeping the scale 

“Scale is important in Crested Butte,” said councilmember Jason MacMillan. “How do we get more people hanging out on their porches?”

“I like the aspirational goals being discussed,” said Billick. “We all agree on retaining the human scale. For me, there needs to be a balance with preserving the past and still allowing us to move forward.”

“I appreciate the back-and-forth to figure out how we preserve the character we have while moving forward,” said Prochaska.

“If people coming in don’t see our vision, they should go somewhere else,” said Nauman. “We should attract people whose values align with ours and lose the people who don’t. It’s getting harder. People will work the rules hard to get what they want.”

“I think we’re doing a pretty decent job, but the guidelines will always have to evolve,” said Alvarez Marti. 

“We need to rely on our values now, not from 1880,” said Schmidt. “We can address things like fire safety, water, energy conservation. Nothing says we can’t include those values.”

“We do really well with the core of town and the National Historic District,” said Davol. “The bigger challenge is what houses morph into outside on the edges of town.”

“Again, the scale of the community and the buildings is important,” said Billick. “We need to use the communal spaces and public spaces and buildings to keep the human scale. The number of vehicles also impacts the feel of scale.”

Climate Action Plan discussion

Crested Butte sustainability coordinator Dannah Leeman told the government officials that the latest revision of the Climate Action Plan was just getting started but the goal was to have it completed by the end of the year. She asked how bold the town should be with its plan.

Leeman said staff is working on a public engagement strategy and the first order of business was to do a comprehensive inventory of the town’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

“I wonder given our size if we have the opportunity with the Climate Action Plan to be a thought leader,” said MacMillan. “We have the ability to experiment and see what works and spread that information.”

“A focus on greenhouse gases is great but it is just one part of the issue,” said Davol. “We need to think more holistically and consider things like water, food and waste.”

Spann Labato agreed that water issues should be a major focus of the CAP. “Lack of water is serious and it is coming. Just look at the reservoirs in the west.”

Billick said for him personally, water was not near the top of the list since Crested Butte is located at the headwaters. “Location matters and a place like San Diego will have more serious problems than Crested Butte. We are at the headwaters and have very good water rights. So, while water is important, the threat of fire is more important to me.”

Billick also said the use of carbon offsets should be discussed by town officials to determine if they should be used. He suggested seeing how other communities incorporated them into their CAPs.

“We don’t want offsets that are simply greenwashing,” said Fenerty. “We need to be diligent about doing real things.”

“We live in a tough place to be successful with bold and aggressive action,” said Nauman. “We need to be careful to not overstate the reality. It’s not necessarily the easiest place to be a thought leader in this realm. It’s a tough challenge to make it all work.”

“I too wrestle with being ambitious versus setting us up for failure,” admitted MacMillan. “People fly and drive here. It’s a tricky one.”

“I don’t think we can provide an answer to how far we can go yet,” said Billick. “We need more information. What are we really talking about? We’re not prepared to answer that.”

“We need to be one step ahead and let technology catch up,” said Davol. “Maybe we need to use carbon offsets. I agree we need to be realistic.”

“We need to be meaningfully bold with the plan,” said Prochaska. “But first we need to be informed about the decisions we are making so more information is in order.”

Get ready to party!

Town staff will continue reaching out to citizens to get input and feedback on the plethora of plans. The town is working on a strategic communications campaign to solicit input on all of the plans, which will take shape this spring and summer. They hope to touch every demographic in the community and use a variety of ways to do so, including the possibility of summer pop-up block parties. 

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