It is unfortunate when community members with legitimate concerns cannot get a response from their elected officials and staff. Representatives of the Friends of Brush Creek have tried repeatedly over the past few weeks to get answers to questions we have regarding the status of the Brush Creek workforce housing proposal. Accordingly, we are left with only one option to get our questions answered, a letter to the newspapers.
“The biggest affordable housing project ever in this valley is in the pipeline right now”, said Mr. Birnie, when speaking of the Brush Creek project.
What does “in the pipeline” actually mean? It would appear that this language means that the deal with Gatesco is already negotiated absent any public input, or input from the Towns, which are the County’s partners in the property. Mr. Birnie and Ms. Pagano have told those who asked that the Gatesco proposal has to go through the land use application process which will involve review by the Planning Commission. If however, an agreement has been completed or is being negotiated by the County with Gatesco and is close to completion, it appears that this process is designed to keep the public and Towns uninformed. Open, honest and meaningful Planning Commission review will be virtually impossible and the proceedings will be a charade. Questions from a very concerned public are being ignored and have been ignored since the proposed project became public.
Accordingly, we have the following questions for Mr. Birnie that require prompt and forthright answers:
1. What does “in the pipeline” actually mean to Mr. Birnie?
2. When did negotiations with Gatesco begin? It is reported that Gatesco’s broker, Doug Kroft, contacted the County in 2016 with an offer to purchase the Brush Creek Property. Is this true?
3. How long did discussions continue regarding a potential sale of the Brush Creek property to Gatesco prior to the decision to send out a Request for Qualifications (“RFQ”)?
4. Were the other applicants in the RFQ process informed about the Gatesco 2016 offer and prior negotiations?
5. What is the status of an agreement with Gatesco? Will this agreement be subject to community review and comment in a public forum with the Commissioners prior to any action being taken by Gunnison County and its partners?
6. Is the agreement only about the purchase price of the property or are there other conditions and terms covered in the agreement? If so, what are those other terms and conditions? Was an appraisal done in order to assess the fair market value of the property that, according to the Assessor’s website, sold for $1,200,000.00 is September, 1997? What is the price being negotiated? Will the County and its partners receive a fair market value price?
7. Are there conditions imposed on Gatesco or Gunnison County in connection with the sale, such as a minimum number of workforce and/or essential housing units? If so, what are all the conditions proposed?
The Friends of Brush Creek communities have not been contacted by anyone from the County regarding this project, even though they will be the most directly impacted. Accordingly, we ask Mr. Birnie to answer our questions by responding to our letter in the Crested Butte News so all can read and understand his answers.
After he responds, we will take the initiative and invite Mr. Birnie to a community meeting to address these and many other questions that are being raised. We will make the time available to accommodate his schedule since this is an important issue that demands public participation. The County has an obligation to meet with its constituents and listen to concerns before any action is taken on this project.