CB sends message to county — ‘slow down’
By Alan Wartes
Community angst at the north end of the Gunnison Valley over the proposed workforce housing development at Brush Creek has prompted the Crested Butte Town Council to publicly express its concerns about the perceived pace of the project.
At the council’s request, last week Crested Butte Town Manager Dara McDonald sent a letter to Gunnison County, the Town of Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte Mountain Resort — the three other signatories to a 1998 memorandum of agreement (MOA) authorizing the property’s purchase and designating it for affordable housing development.
The letter stated: “Slow down on the efforts to enter into a purchase contract with Gatesco and in particular, make final land use approval a condition precedent to closing. This would allow time for the following activities the Council feels would be beneficial to a successful project:
• Allow time for some public engagement to inform the decisions of the Participating Parties.
• Obtain an appraisal of the property so that the Participating Parties can better evaluate the cost benefit of the proposed project.
• Allow time for the Town, and other Participating Parties, to evaluate the land use application and understand the impacts and benefits.”
Gatesco is a Texas-based developer that was chosen earlier this year by the four “participating parties” to submit a proposal — after a Request for Proposal (RFP) process was completed. In late summer Gatesco formally filed a land-use change application to Gunnison County Community Development for review.
According to McDonald, at a meeting on July 10, the CB Town Council agreed to offer support “for proceeding with negotiations with Gatesco for the development of the Brush Creek parcel in a manner similar to that proposed in the RFP response.”
However, that support did not extend to endorsing a formal application, she said. “The town sees that as very different from a selection to move ahead with the land use application and sale of the property.”
The council’s letter further states, “The Town has no interest at this time in providing water or sewer to the project as it is currently conceived.”
‘That’s all part of our process’
In its present form, the proposed development would build 240 housing units on roughly 14 acres of land at the intersection of Hwy. 135 and Brush Creek Road. In exchange for a dramatically reduced sale price for the land — currently owned by Gunnison County — Gatesco would designate 156 of the new units as deed restricted affordable housing, tied to income eligibility.
However, many in the community have objected to the size and density of the proposed development — citing its potential impact on existing infrastructure and its incompatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.
“The expectation from the town is that there would be discussion about the project and the land-use proposal prior to submittal of an application through the county’s approval process,” McDonald said.
In response, county officials point to the existing process — defined in county Land Use Regulations — as the vehicle through which such a discussion is meant to occur.
“I think there is a true misunderstanding out there about how the county process works and what’s going to be available to people as it proceeds,” said County Commissioner Jonathan Houck. “The town is saying ‘We want to have that discussion about what makes sense,’ and we’re saying ‘That’s what (the sketch plan phase of a land-use change application) is for.’ That’s all part of our process.”
County leaders say project not rushed
Town Council’s letter calls for a meeting of the four “participating parties” to discuss Gatesco’s proposal and “how that relates to the explicit uses allowed under the MOA.”
“Affordable housing is a problem that will not be solved by one project,” the letter continues. “However, efforts to address the need could suffer a serious setback for years to come if we do not work together to ensure a project at Brush Creek that is viewed as a success. At this time the Brush Creek project is perceived by many to be rushed and we are concerned the loss of trust with the public could sully the waters for projects in the future.”
Commissioner Phil Chamberland disagreed with the perception that the process is being rushed.
“They haven’t yet had the first meeting in a two-year process,” he said. “What are you talking about rushing anything? I have a really strong sense of comfort with our process.”
Furthermore, Houck said, there are “good reasons” for proceeding with the sale of the land prior to any land-use change approval — and for offering the land at reduced cost to the developer.
“Imagine the argument if we owned the land, and we’re also reviewing the project that’s going to go onto the land that we own, there are going to be people that will feel that’s predetermined, that we will always get to a ‘yes,’ because we own the land,” he said. “What we want to do is set the land aside (by selling it) and go through the process and make sure that if it doesn’t proceed, there’s the ability for the land to be recouped back to county ownership.”
The Gunnison County Planning Commission will hold the first work session regarding the Gatesco application Friday, Oct. 20 in the upstairs conference room of the Blackstock Government Center in Gunnison. Visit gunnisoncounty.org for more information.