Dialogue continues over Compass plan

Big discussions over major change taking place…you’re invited to participate

By Mark Reaman

The sometimes grinding work continues on the various plans that make up Crested Butte’s Community Compass project. An almost two-hour joint work session with the town council and members of the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) took place Monday, June 17, as town staff updated the officials on progress and again solicited feedback on the various paths for the various plans (Transportation Mobility Plan, Climate Action Plan, Historic Preservation Plan, and Community Plan) and an overall Compass Navigation effort. 

The Transportation Mobility Plan was adopted in March and now the town is starting implementation. The Historic Preservation plan launched last December, and the town is taking public feedback on its draft plan until July 5. The Climate Action Plan (CAP) began in January and town officials are still struggling with exactly where they want to focus (see page 16), while the Community Plan started the process in March and is in the early data collection phase. 

The town has started a summer public outreach effort to solicit community feedback on the planning ideas. A brochure was provided through the CB News to the community in early June giving an overview of the plans and other Compass information. 

Town also has website info for the plans, will be conducting surveys, is meeting with individuals and groups to gather feedback, will be going to various summer events to interact with the public, is helping to sponsor a climate summit on June 28 in Mt. Crested Butte, will hold four block parties in various CB neighborhoods this summer and will be holding design charettes in September.

Opening up the boundaries of the historical town…

The Historic Preservation Plan has the goal of retaining “the unique character and traditions of Crested Butte…while establishing how the town can ensure its architectural identity reflects Crested Butte’s deep sense of community and evolution over time.” The three main alternatives being proposed include: keeping the current preservation policy; preserving a new recreation/ski era period of significance and allowing a range of architectural styles outside the historic districts; and preserving the national historic core and allow any architectural style everywhere else (with mass/scale/form standards).

Town planner Jessica Earley said staff hoped to find a combined “Goldilocks” end result that took elements from all three alternatives. 

BOZAR chairperson Erik Nauman said whatever the end result, “the final plan needs to be easy for BOZAR and homeowners to interpret.”

BOZAR’s Roxana Alvarez Marti said she thought the second option offered the best path forward allowing some flexibility by acknowledging a new era of significance with the ski era influence.

“Finding balance is important,” agreed BOZAR member Donny Davol.

Councilmember Kent Cowherd said he saw attributes in all three options and said he could see the benefit of a “Goldilocks” result. He added that in places like Europe he was “not put off” when more modern buildings were situated next to historical buildings. “That can make me appreciate the historical structure more,” he said.

Alvarez Marti said while that sort of mingling could take place in a larger city, it is starker in a place like Crested Butte that is basically 10 blocks by 10 blocks. “That can happen effectively in a city. It’s different here,” she said. “But expanding and incorporating the ski era period of significance allows greater architectural opportunities.”

Councilmember Jason MacMillan agreed that a city could better absorb a variety of architecture.

Councilmember Gabi Prochaska disagreed with Alvarez Marti, opining that “a diversity of architecture could happen in a small town. If there is a distinction, the old structure can be more noticeable, and it has more impact. I like the idea of a ski era period of significance but also think there is a place for a flavor of today that would be interesting.”

“I’m in the camp that architecture should reflect the times,” agreed councilmember Mallika Magner. “It is important for the town not to require things that make it more difficult and more expensive for people by pursuing an outdated architectural style. Practicality should be considered. We have a lot of rules that make peoples’ lives more difficult and expensive. A more modern focus would be more authentic to the time. We’re not in the 1800s anymore.”

“We can’t confuse poor design as a hardship on homeowners,” said Nauman. “You can build a super-efficient small house in town, but people don’t want that now.”

“Is what we do relevant if new buildings are economically incentivized to maximize their FAR (Floor Area Ratio) size,” asked mayor Ian Billick.

“People want a big house that maximizes the real estate investment,” said Nauman. “What’s causing the friction is not BOZAR saying you can’t do something, it’s that the architects need to bring in a good design.”

“If we can figure out a way to not maximize the investment, a lot of the issues go away,” added Davol. “Everyone coming in now wants to maximize the FAR and that drives design.”

Billick asked staff to look at ways to perhaps incentivize people to move away from maximizing their investment. “Are there levers available to move people away from that? We won’t get to a solution tonight.”

Alvarez Marti said when people criticize BOZAR, often times it is because they confuse town code with BOZAR guidelines.

Directing growth and dealing with ‘affluent climate refugees’ through the Community Plan

The Community Plan is meant to serve as the community growth plan. According to the Monday memo to the council, it will identify zoning and land use tools and recommend updates to the town zoning code to support access to attainable housing, affordable goods and services and a vibrant local business scene. One of the challenges mentioned was that Crested Butte is losing ground on livability.

“Losing ground on livability isn’t a severe enough statement,” said councilmember Anna Fenerty.

“And it will only get worse,” said Billick. “Because of climate and so much of the country becoming less livable, I think we’ll see affluent climate refugees coming here. We need to take action to remain a community with the valley seeing more pressure.”

“One of the unique things about this place is that we have historically been so dependent on each other here. So many people have their families living somewhere else, so we depend on one another,” said Fenerty.

Responding to some of the verbiage in the Community Plan proposal, Nauman said it wasn’t accurate to say Crested Butte was a tourism-based economy. “We have a lot of different professions in the community not just related to tourism,” he said. “There is a lot more going on than tourism.”

“I agree and think it is incorrect to say we are a tourism-based economy,” said Billick. “We are an amenities-based economy. People come here and move here for what is available. People can live here and work anywhere but they choose Crested Butte based on the amenities. The tourism framing is I think based on the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

“We need to be careful as Elk Avenue is becoming a street strictly for visitors instead of locals,” added Alvarez Marti who said town zoning and code changes can only do so much.

Billick said there were other available tools to guide growth and used the potential purchase of property for a future day care center to help keep local costs affordable.

All of this continues to be up for discussion with the town providing feedback opportunities for the public all summer long.

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