Response to Questions and Comments Presented at
Town of Crested Butte Meeting on October 5, 2017
On October 5, 2017, the Town of Crested Butte hosted a meeting at which members of the public were invited to ask questions and offer comments regarding the proposed Brush Creek affordable housing project.
Additional detail is available in the Sketch Plan Application (“Application”) submitted to Gunnison County, which can be downloaded here:
http://www.gunnisoncounty.org/651/Citizen-Access (Project Application No. LUC-17- 00034).
If we have inadvertently omitted your question, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Affordable Housing & Qualification for Deed Restricted Units
Some commented that units should be “truly affordable” like Anthracite Place, and shouldn’t be available to household earning over 100% AMI.
Others commented that concentrating low-income housing in one place will create a “slum” (their words, not ours).
We agree that concentrating low-income households in one homogenous place is not an ideal way to build a vibrant community. This is one of the many reasons why the Application proposes to provide housing to local households earning a wide range of incomes. Additionally, the Housing Needs Assessment made it abundantly clear that very low income households are not the only ones being priced out of the North Valley real estate market. In the summer of 2016, a household had to earn 405% of AMI ($223,000 per year for a two-person household) to be able to afford a median priced home in the North Valley (Housing Needs Assessment p. North Valley-8). The problem has only gotten worse in 2017. Vacant lots are selling in Crested Butte for in excess of one million dollars. The Housing Needs Assessment also noted that Anthracite Place leased up slower than anticipated in part because many applicants barely missed the stringent income limits imposed on that project. There is a pressing need for housing that is affordable to moderate income families living and working in the North Valley, which includes teachers, policemen, skilled laborers, and most young professionals. The first table below summarizes the proposed income restrictions, expressed as a percentage of area median income (AMI). The second table illustrates the AMI percentages in dollar figures for 2017. Additional information can be found in the Application.
Some opined that 100% of the units should be deed restricted affordable housing (not just 65%, as proposed).
Non-restricted units will still be affordable as compared to existing detached single-family dwellings available for sale or rent in the North Valley. All units, whether restricted or not, will be precluded from having short term leases or sub-leases. The Applicant is proposing to build these units without public cash outlays. To ensure the ability to lease units, the Applicant is simply requesting to have the flexibility to lease a small percentage of the units to tenants who may not strictly comply with the income and other workhouse housing criteria.
Will seasonal employees (or any employees who recently moved to the Valley) qualify in light of the residency requirement?
The Applicant anticipates that many of the tenants will be pre-existing residents of the Valley. Many other affordable housing projects have included a requirement that participants lived in the Valley for a certain period of time (e.g. one year) in order to qualify. However, the Applicant is aware of the needexpressed by many employers for housing available to people who are new to the Valley. Therefore, the Application does not propose to include such a pre-existingresidency requirement. The proposed qualifications are described on page 9 of the Application. Generally speaking, a household would need to have at least one individual earn his or her living by working at least 30 hours per week on average at a business operating in Gunnison County. A person relocating to the valley would be able to qualify by demonstrating that they are commencing employment at such a business (e.g. by providing a letter from the employer). There are other limited opportunities to qualify, such as seniors and disabled individuals who are able to demonstrate residency in Gunnison County.
Assuring the Project is Built and Operated as Proposed
How do we know that the units will be affordable if the property is handed over to a private party? Other affordable housing units have disappeared (e.g. Skyland).
When title is transferred to the Developer, the deed will include a deed restriction that precludes the property from being used for any purpose other than a workforce housing project substantially similar to the one presented in the Application.
When the Application is approved, additional restrictive covenants will be imposed on the property to ensure that it is used in accordance with the approval.
The County is authorized, well-equipped, and willing to enforce its Land Use Resolution. The County routinely uses administrative and judicial measures to remedy non-compliance.
The Applicant cannot speak to what circumstances may have allowed the developer of Skyland to rescind previous affordable housing deed restrictions.
What happens if the units are not leased? Will the developer walk away with millions?
If the units do not lease, the Applicant will certainly not “walk away with millions.” As mentioned above, the title will be transferred with a deed restriction that limits the use of the property to workforce housing in accordance with the project approved by the County. That deed restriction would survive any transfer of title by the Applicant. The Applicant is assuming all of the risk of the development, and will be investing tens of millions of dollars on the development. Therefore, the Applicant has the highest motivation to ensure the success of the project.
Why not phase the project?
The development of the project will be phased. As each phase reaches lease-up, the next phase will be constructed. If there is truly no demand for 240 rental units, as some opponents have suggested, then 240 units will not be built.
Who will be responsible for architectural review and code compliance?
Design restrictions will be imposed during the land use review process.
Gunnison County community development department will be responsible for inspecting all construction to ensure that it is built in accordance with all applicable codes.
How will the project impact traffic on Brush Creek Road and Highway 135?
Traffic impacts are currently being studied and will be addressed at the preliminary plan stage. The Applicant has already received comments from CDOT and Gunnison County Public Works, which will be taken into account as traffic impacts are studied further. While the project will result in more traffic utilizing Brush Creek Road compared to the status quo, there are several other factors to consider regarding traffic, such as availability of public transit, availability of alternative transportation (bike, walk, ski), and, importantly,reduced commuting between Gunnison and Crested Butte.
With or without this project, as Skyland, Buckhorn and Larkspur continue to build out, impacts to the Brush Creek/Hwy 135 intersection will continue to increase. It has been said that the Brush Creek corridor will increase from approximately 2,000 residents today to over 4,000 residents at full build-out ( https://friendsofbrushcreek.org ). Traffic infrastructure improvements may be warranted even without this project.
The need for workforce housing in the North Valley will not be reduced anytime soon and most likely will continue to increase. That workforce will have to commute from somewhere. Dispersing the proposed workforce housing to additional/alternative unidentified sites to the south (as some opponents have suggested) will not reduce the amount of traffic on Highway 135 or in the Town of Crested Butte. Granted, the number of vehicles turning onto or off of Brush Creek Road would be reduced. However, overall traffic impacts to the Highway 135 corridor are a function of workforce, recreational, tourist and residential commutes between Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison.
Impact on School
We anticipate that many of the units will be filled by current residents of the North Valley. The Housing Needs Assessment notes that “[a]bout 10% of renters are new to the area, while 40% have lived in the Gunnison Valley between one to five years. The remaining 50% have been residents for five years or longer,” (p. North Valley-9), and that “[a]ll of the households moving to Anthracite already
lived or worked in the North Valley.” (p. North Valley-14). The project will gradually reach full build-out, giving the school time to adjust to any population growth that may result from the project.
Growth in the valley is happening and projected to continue regardless of this project. The Brush Creek corridor population will double even without this project ( https://friendsofbrushcreek.org ). The impact of future growth on the school is a current issue that needs to be planned for.
Any criticism of the project on the grounds that it will add students to a school that is already at capacity is effectively an opinion that there should be zero population growth in the North Valley. Yet, the critics who express this concern offer no suggestion for how to handle the growth that will occur from the build-out of high value residential subdivisions that have already been platted.
Most detractors do not argue with the need for the workforce housing, but rather take issue with the location and density of this project. However, relocating all or a portion of the density to another part of the North Valley will not change the impact on the school. Relocating all or a portion of the density to the South Valley does not address the issue of providing affordable workforce housing near an individual’s place of employment. Putting housing in a place where the kids may attend school in Gunnison yet the parents must commute to the North Valley for work creates its own policy concerns.
The Applicant has met with the Superintendent of the school district. The project would provide a supply of affordable housing in close proximity to the school. The Applicant and the school district are exploring arrangements that would provide value to the school district (such as a first right of refusal on a number of units). The Applicant anticipates that it will continue to meet with the school district throughout the County’s land use review process.
Who is paying for the infrastructure
The Applicant will be responsible for all on-site infrastructure and at least a portion of any necessary change to the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135.
The Applicant will be required to complete one or more test wells and demonstrate a physically reliable supply of water during the preliminary plan phase.
The Applicant has never proposed to connect to the Town of Crested Butte’s water supply system.
“This will be an ‘open air’ system that will smell and have adverse water quality impacts”
The wastewater treatment system would not be an “open air” system. Period.
The new facility will be designed and permitted through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and will meet all current regulations. It would use technology similar to or better than the technology used at the CB South Metro District facility located near Highway 135 and Cement Creek Road.
Will the property be sold to the developer at less than fair market value?
That is the current discussion. Although, we would note that the fair market value of the property is not nearly as high as some critics have suggested. Most folks fail to take into account that the property will be conveyed subject to a deed restriction that is must be used for a workforce housing project in conformance with any approval obtained from Gunnison County. Such a deed restriction (like any encumbrance on real property) reduces its value. Moreover, the purchase price reflects the reality that the Applicant proposes to develop, at its expense, a significant number of public amenities (e.g. the transit facility). When compared to other recently completed or proposed workforce housing projects that include the expenditure of millions of dollars of public funds, the Applicant would respectfully suggest that this project delivers a tremendous return on public investment.
The site plan identifies snow storage sites equal to 58% of the improved surfaces, this far exceeds the recommended snow storage area provided in the Crested Butte Area Plan.
The design team met with individuals experienced in snow management to talk about snow storage capacity and location. Snow storage has been planned to maximize efficiency for storage and to consider drainage patterns during snow melt.
The snow storage areas are illustrated in the Application on Map 15 – Parking & Snow Storage Plan.
The plan includes 361 parking spaces in the residential area and 69 parking spaces at the transit center. 361 spaces is just over 1.5 spaces per dwelling unit.
The number of parking spaces was determined in consultation with the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority, influenced by the large number of studio andone-bedroom units, and based on experience with similar projects in similar communities. The Staff Report on the Application notes: “It is becoming more common for jurisdictions across the country to reduce the amount of parking spaces required when a residential development is near public transportation. It is common for many zoning and land use codes to require 1 or 1.5 parking spaces per unit in multi-family developments.”
Skyland Lodge has approximately 36 parking spaces for 55 units.
The design needs to include enough room for storage of “toys.”
Each unit will have designated storage space. Ski storage will be available at the Transit Center/Community Building. Underground parking garages include storage space. Several units (duplexes & 4-plexes) have garage space that may be used as storage. For residents fortunate enough to have large toys (boats, etc.), off-site storage is commercially available throughout the Gunnison valley.
There should be no flat roofs.
Flat roofs are designed and engineered to hold and store snow rather than allow snow to shed off of the roof creating a safety hazard and snow storage issues.
Snow storage on roofs increases the R-value by about R-1 per inch of snow, so the snow storage actually contributes to the building’s efficiency during winter months.
The design should incorporate renewable energy / energy efficiency
Several buildings have been oriented to create optimal angles for solar panels and to capture passive solar.
Additional energy efficiency opportunities are being studied and considered for this project.
The local design team includes engineers and other professionals with extensive experience in developing multi-family projects that maximize energy efficiency.
Is the site plan to scale?
Yes, the plan and the elements on the plan are all drawn to the same scale.
The scaled model is available to view at The Painted Pony Café.
Active play amenities should be included.
The central park area includes a playground as well as multipurpose open fields.
The paths and drainage on the east side of the site include “nature play” areas intended for children and adults.
A picnic shelter with tables and grills is located in the central park area.
Community gardens are included in the park space adjacent to the Community Center.
Why is the transit center in the northeast corner?
This location is closer in proximity to multiple Brush Creek corridor neighborhoods, allowing more convenient access, say, to hop on the shuttle to the ski hill.
This location allows the use of Wright Ranch Road to create a one-way bus circulation loop.
There is not enough space along the Highway for an adequately sized transit facility.
CDOT has expressed a preference to have buses turning into and out of the transit facility further away from intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135.
Project team members met with RTA and Mountain Express authorities to discuss transit location options. The outcome of discussions was that the disadvantage of adding time to pull onto Brush Creek Road is outweighed by the increase in safety and convenience for transit users.
Compatibility with Crested Butte 3-Mile Plan
The project’s compatibility with the Crested Butte Area Plan is discussed beginning at page 29 of the Application. While the project does not strictly conform to every technical detail of the Crested Butte Area Plan, it is consistent with the Plan’s primary policies and objectives. The criteria of the Crested Butte Area Plan are not binding, and where they conflict with Gunnison County Land Use Resolution, the Land Use Resolution controls.
What happened to preserving an “open corridor” along Highway 135?
This project is located in an area where other existing and proposed adjacent developments have encroached on this open corridor (e.g. Riverland, Riverbend, and pending industrial park south of Riverland).
The view of the property coming from south is blocked by existing natural terrain.
The ideal of preserving an open corridor is inconsistent with the objective of locating new development close to existing transportation infrastructure.
Compatibility with Surrounding Area
The density of the project is compatible with the surrounding area. The Brush Creek corridor already includes many pockets of dense multi-family residential development. For example, the Skyland Lodge includes 55 units on a parcel that is 1.37 acres in size (approximately 40 units per acre). As another example, Skyland Multi-Family Tract 4 was originally approved for 65 units on 6.5 acres. At build-out, it is anticipated to have 45 units that, on average, are much larger than the units proposed in this project, and that will have a floor area ratio of approximately 30%.
The building heights in the proposed project are compatible with the surrounding area. The Skyland Design Guidelines allow building heights of 35 feet on Multi-Family Tracts 1-3, and heights of 45 feet on Multi-Family Tracts 4-6. The Skyland Design Guidelines also allow exceedance of the default height limits by up to 12 feet based on the pitch of the roof. The buildings in the proposed project would generally comply with the default 30 foot height maximum in the County Land Use Resolution, though some buildings may take advantage of the 7.5 foot increase allowed for Essential Housing projects. Taller buildings will be located at lower elevations on the site in order to mitigate impacts on the viewshed.
The building sizes in the proposed project are compatible with the surrounding area. The Skyland Lodge is 35,000 square feet. The recreation lot in Larkspur allows for a building that is 39,000 square feet. The proposed building sizes for this project range from 4,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet. Smaller structures are located around the perimeter of the property to blend into the surrounding neighborhoods.
The architectural style will be compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.
Short Term Rentals. Will this be VRBO? Why allow three month leases?
Short term leases and subleases are prohibited to ensure that no units are operated as a VRBO. Three month leases on non-deed restricted units are intended to accommodate seasonal workers. Traditionally, lease terms greater than one month are considered “residential,” while shorter lease terms are considered “lodging.” The proposed minimum three month lease term far exceeds this traditional criterion.
Why no opportunities for ownership?
There are economies of scale in managing for-rent units. It is not economical to manage rental units scattered amongst numerous locations throughout the North Valley.
There are numerous platted lots available as deed-restricted for-sale units in the North Valley already, with more on the way.
There should be commercial space.
There will be limited commercial space intended to serve the needs of the residents of the community, consistent with Crested Butte Area Plan. The Town of Crested Butte has historically opposed large-scale commercial activity outside of Town limits. The decision to have a very limited amount of commercial space serving the needs of the residents was influenced by this preference.
The site plan includes a dog park. Pet waste stations will be located throughout the site.
Pet waste stations will be located throughout the site.
Pet regulations will be strictly enforced.
Does the project include trails? / The project should include trails.
There are trails throughout the site, including a soft surface recreation path around the perimeter of the property, as illustrated on the Development Layout Plan (Map 12) included in the Application. The trails provide connectivity to existing trails adjacent to the property (including the Deli / Riverbend / Skyland trail to Town), and an easement would be granted to allow connectivity to any future trail to CB South.
The Applicant was out of line to propose connection to the existing Deli / Riverbend / Skyland trail without Skyland’s consent.
Connection to existing trails was a design requirement in the RFQ and RFP processes related to this project. The trail is a public trail, and has been constructed, improved, and maintained using the expenditure of substantial public funds.
There should be a local development team, not an “outside” developer.
The Applicant has assembled a 100% local team of architects, engineers, and other design and construction professionals to design the Project. More information about the team is available in the Application and at http://thecorneratbrushcreek.com/team/.
How does the project address the needs of Western State and Gunnison Valley Health?
The Applicant has met with both institutions and understands that both institutions are supportive of the project. Additional housing in the North Valley relieves pressure on available housing throughout the entire Valley. Furthermore, because this project does not require public funds, it leaves the local governments with resources to develop other projects close to Gunnison.
The developer should have to provide open space elsewhere
There are numerous programs already in place to protect open space in Gunnison County (e.g. 1% for Open Space, Gunnison County Land Preservation Fund).
Clustering new development next to an existing population center and transportation route minimizes the impact on open space. Spreading out the required workforce housing over a larger number of acres would have a greater adverse impact on open space.
This project proposes maintaining over 50% of the site as open space. This is illustrated on Map 14 of the Application.
Why not trade this parcel for land in Town and develop affordable housing in Town?
A review of the Gunnison County Assessor records reveals three vacant residential lot sales in the Town of Crested Butte in the last twelve months. Prices ranged from $730,000 to $1.3 Million for quarter-acre lots. At best, a trade of the Brush Creek parcel for property in Town would yield one quarter-acre lot. It is simply not possible to develop affordable housing in the Town of Crested Butte without massive government subsidies.
The project is moving too fast. There has not been enough opportunity for public participation.
The County Land Use Resolution requires a Sketch Plan, Preliminary Plan, and Final Plan. The developer only recently submitted the Sketch Plan. There will be numerous public hearings at the Sketch Plan phase alone. The Staff Report on the Application recommends a series of public hearings to address all aspects of the project in detail.
The first Planning Commission meeting regarding the Sketch Plan will be held on October 20, 2017.
The design team has created a website (TheCorneratBrushCreek.com) with project information and a link for submitting feedback and comments, and will be hosting weekly meetings, Wednesdays at noon, at The Painted Pony Café to provide additional opportunity for the public to view the project model, review the current plan, ask questions and provide feedback and comments.