County should go back to drawing board with Brush Creek

Editor:

I read with interest the three articles appearing in the September 7 issue of the Gunnison Country Times—one by Alan Wartes, one unsigned Times opinion article and one by the Gunnison County Commissioners. All appeared fairly one-sided in support of the proposed Gates Brush Creek development and each failed to contain a full description of the pros and cons of the proposed development or an accurate description of recommendations of the Gunnison Valley Housing Needs Assessment, released in November 2016, which in all cases should be the starting point of determining whether or not a proposed “workforce housing” development should be approved—disappointing. Most disappointing is the opinion that sets forth the idea that the residents of the northern valley (the homeowners who live in the communities represented by the Friends of Brush Creek and the full-time residents and second homeowners of Crested Butte) must sacrifice for the good of the community at large by accepting the Brush Creek project with open arms. Nowhere in the opinion does the writer explain why it is appropriate for anyone in the Gunnison Valley to accept and approve a project (240 units), developed in the midst of residential developments, which: —Will house 816 residents, thus increasing the size of Crested Butte and adjacent areas by 50 percent of current population of Crested Butte. —Will house in excess of 300 dogs and pets. — Will contain approximately 190,000 square feet, including 19 buildings, duplexes, fourplexes, eight-plexes, 16-plexes and 24-plexes, a community building, a storage building, and a convenience store, three to four stories tall, to be developed on 11 (plus an additional two acres for a transit center) acres of land. —Will create monumental traffic problems at the intersection of Brush Creek and Hwy. 135, and Hwy. 135 into Crested Butte with extraordinary vehicle and bus traffic and the installation of the first stop light in the northern valley. —Will increase the number of students at the Crested Butte Community School (which already operates at capacity) by a minimum of 190 students, in addition to numerous other impacts. — Will provide that Gunnison County, as opposed to the Gunnison Valley Housing Authority, will be responsible for making sure the deed-restricted covenants governing the workforce housing agreements are followed and complied with, notwithstanding a history of Gunnison County being unable or unwilling to enforce such rules. At such time as the Gatesco project is completed and leased, the lives of everyone in the Brush Creek corridor and the Town of Crested Butte will be irreparably changed and damaged. The development and operation of a project of this magnitude will forever change the idyllic smalltown nature of Crested Butte and surrounding areas, changing our environment to have the attributes of the hustle and bustle of big-city living. And to what end? To take care of 30 or so residents offering them affordable housing, at the sacrifice and expense of the 1,600 full-time residents of Crested Butte and the approximately 300 to 400 full- and part-time residents of the Brush Creek corridor. No one that I have talked to thinks that a development of this magnitude is appropriate for the north valley (which includes Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte South) or the south valley (Gunnison). We can only hope that our elected officials immediately start to listen to their constituents. While we can only guess what the impact on the Town of Crested Butte will be as a result of the development of the Gatesco project, a one-time 50 percent increase in the population will surely negatively affect traffic and job competition and will result in crowded restaurants, abnormal pressure on services and other unknown changes and will have a life long altering negative effect on the quality of life for those who live and love their lives in Crested Butte. Those opposed to the Gatesco development are not opposed to the development of workforce housing (for ownership and rental) needed to provide housing for employees who are at the lower end of the pay scale. Nor are the Friends of Brush Creek opposed to the development of workforce housing on the Brush Creek tract. A development of rental properties on the Brush Creek tract containing 40 to 60 rental units to be leased to residents who are at the lower end of the income scale and the development of deedrestricted housing for ownership in the range of 20 to 30 homes sounds to most, viable and acceptable, and does not create any of the massive density issues created by the Gatesco project. Absent from the three articles is an adequate analysis and discussion of the well-written and prepared Needs Assessment which describes in great detail the affordable housing problems that we are faced with in our valley and offers thoughtful recommendations and solutions to the affordable housing crisis in our valley. The Needs Assessment provides that housing affordability is a function both of the cost of housing and household income. Housing is generally considered to be affordable (or attainable) when the monthly payment (rent or mortgage) is equal to no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income. The implementation of the Needs Assessment’s recommendations will take time; however, if all of the governmental jurisdictions (Gunnison County, Gunnison, Crested Butte South, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte) and residents, full- and part-time, work together, a viable plan which is consistent with the recommendations of the Needs Assessment can be created which will not result in the monumental adverse changes that will occur to Crested Butte and surrounding areas if the Gatesco project moves forward to fruition. The Gatesco project is not the answer and is not consistent with the recommendations set forth in the Needs Assessment. County Commissioners, please go back to the drawing board.

Larry Brannian, Crested Butte