By Toni Todd
Recent letters to the editor, and some sent directly to the county, oppose, or at least urge rethinking of, the proposed Brush Creek essential housing project. Nearly every letter has expressed dismay over the county’s alleged plans to “fast track” the development through the approval process, regardless of potential adverse effects upon the community.
“The ‘fast-tracking’ language does not come from the county,” said Gunnison County manager Matthew Birnie. “I have only seen or heard that language in correspondence from project opponents.”
The county’s Land Use Resolution does, however, allow for what it calls an “expedited process.” As similar as this sounds to “fast tracking,” it’s not. An expedited process does not rush the proposal through the approval process; rather, it bumps the proposal to the head of the line at each step along the way. “Really, that just means the essential housing project is considered before other projects,” Birnie explained.
“While this incentive allows for an application to be scheduled ahead of other applications,” Birnie added, “it does not eliminate or reduce the process that the application must go through. There are [however] other development standards, such as height, setbacks, location, parking, etc., that may be modified for essential housing projects under the LUR.”
The developer, Gatesco Inc., wants to build 240 rental units at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135, housing as many as 816 people, half of whom earn less than 140 percent of the local average median income (AMI).
Birnie said the formal land use change process would begin when Gatesco submits an application to the community development department. “They had a pre-application meeting with staff yesterday and I understand that they anticipate submitting an application this month,” he said.
The development proposal is a public/private venture between Gatesco Inc., three local government entities—Gunnison County, the town of Crested Butte and the town of Mt. Crested Butte—and Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). Governments and CBMR co-own the land at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 135. The idea is that they might donate the property to Gatesco, which will design, build and manage the complex.
As previously reported in the Crested Butte News, units would range from 500-square-foot efficiencies to 1,300-square-foot three-bedroom units. Half of the units would be restricted for rental for tenants making less than 140 percent AMI. One hundred percent AMI for a single person right now is $49,600. For a four-person household, the AMI is $70,800. So, at 140 percent, a single person could earn $69,440, while a four-person household could bring in $99,120. The other half of the rentals on the site would be rented at free-market rates with no restrictions on cost.
The idea is to create housing for a segment of the population that doesn’t qualify for subsidized, or lower-income, housing but still struggles or finds it impossible to pay for housing at full market rates. The donation of the land by the current owners will lower the overall cost to build the project, allowing the developer to offer some units at a more affordable rent than they would otherwise.
Opponents of the Brush Creek development cite density, traffic, and incompatibility with the neighborhood among their concerns.