Hit the restart button on the Brush Creek proposal

Dear Editor:

My wife and I have lived in the Skyland Community for more than 18 years. I’ve lived in Gunnison County for more than 45 years. Our kids are now grown and gone; some went to school here, K-through-12. We had two horses, three dogs (one at a time), a cockatiel, and we still have a cat. Our home is located not far from the now infamous “Brush Creek parcel.” We began to monitor this matter after we were informed that the developer Mr. Gates would be speaking earlier this summer to the Skyland homeowners’ association. I don’t always agree with Crested Butte News editor Mark Reaman (sorry, Mark). However, I found that his editorial in his September 8, 2017 paper to be a pretty good place to start for anyone interested in learning about the proposed Brush Creek Parcel development and the process that followed from its inception. Mark referred to the process to date as a “blunder.” I find this to be a pretty accurate description. In the same issue of the Crested Butte News, there was a letter written by, or on behalf of, the County Commissioners. It began by describing the ideas, views and opinions raised by the public as being “peddled.” I find that to be a most unfortunate and offensive way to describe the input of concerned taxpayers who, as members of the public, actually are the owners of this parcel. I know and have conversed with many property owners of the adjacent parcels and the nearby subdivisions. Without sounding patronizing, generally I know them to be fine people and good stewards of the land and of our community. While others may think it irrelevant, this group does in fact pay a substantial amount of property taxes, and they support the music, arts, and film festivals and organizations in the valley. Many of these people are also big supporters of our valley’s hospital and senior care center, our local university “Western Colorado,” Adaptive Sports, local trails and many other local non-profits, foundations and worthwhile causes. I’ve attended several of these homeowners’ meetings on this Brush Creek matter. Incidentally, never once did I hear any comments even close to “We don’t want those people here.” What I have heard repeatedly from these homeowners is a general acknowledgment of the critical need for housing for our workforce. And I’ve frequently heard from them that the Brush Creek Parcel location has strong potential for affordable housing. But it’s the proposed density of approximately 240 units that borders on insanity. Such a project in no way is compatible with the adjoining properties and communities, and it’s replete with flaws. The impacts from such a project on our schools and roads would be huge, and its location, which is approximately 1.5 miles from the Town of Crested Butte, doesn’t solve the transportation challenge of our workforce. Many of these folks cannot afford a car and the bus schedule is not always compatible with their work schedules. As Mark Reaman points out, this location will only continue to separate our workers from their community. Are there also other locations closer or adjacent to the Town of Crested Butte where people could walk or ride their bikes to work or to and from the bus stop? I think there are. I haven’t personally heard any disparaging remarks being made about our commissioners or their staff from these homeowners. But if that has occurred, it is absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable. End of discussion. But I will remind the commissioners and their staff that this parcel belongs to us, the public. Through our property taxes, we fund, in part, the county’s salaries and other expenses. It’s completely expected that the scope of this proposed project would generate the input and the passions of property owners affected by the projected misuse of this parcel. The county had to expect that this project would create some “heat in the kitchen.” That goes with the territory when you choose to work in the public sector. I also suggest that the recent letter to the editor from the commissioners was not effective, and it actually sounded petty and defensive. You asked for this job; now toughen up your skin and stay with it. My impression is that few of these adjacent or nearby homeowners, including me, doubt the veracity and integrity of the commissioners and their staff. I know these people, and they are good people. But the County needs to recognize that there is more it could and should have done to promote earlier community involvement and more transparency with this project. No, Mark, I’m not going to now recommend a “kumbaya” approach going forward. But I am recommending that the re-set button be pushed on this project. The County needs to re-commence this entire process, starting with the review of the proposed sale of public property. It needs to comply with its own LUR and hold numerous public meetings throughout the process where the public is invited to give input. Doing this can help correct the “blunder” that occurred.

Chuck Cliggett