Start with a strategic plan instead of rushing into Brush Creek

Dear Editor:

John Norton’s column last week asks: If Brush Creek is not part of the answer, what is? Let’s look to the Gunnison County Housing Needs Assessment where the first recommendation is to “Develop a Strategic Housing Plan.” This has not been done. Once the initial Needs Assessment was completed, an unsolicited offer by Gatesco’s realtor was submitted which took the focus away from the development of any strategic plan. Let’s look at what this plan might have looked like (and still can look like). In Gunnison, where utilities, services and land are available, no affordable/workforce rental units are proposed when 60 are stated as needed in the Needs Assessment. Land is available in the subdivision just north of town for affordable/workforce rental housing and with the hospital proposing a new building there, isn’t it possible that the hospital, the university, the town and the developer can get together to discuss how they could collaborate to create affordable housing opportunities for their employees? The Needs Assessment also indicated that most of those surveyed preferred to live in Gunnison. In the mid Valley, the Needs Assessment identified a need for 30 affordable/ workforce housing rental units. Once again, none are being considered for this area where land, utilities and some services are already available. We have seen a rough plan by a landowner in Crested Butte South that would create 30 to 50 affordable/workforce housing rental units. Clearly this site should be considered. As we move north, the Needs Assessment indicated that 90 affordable/workforce housing rental units were needed by 2020. The land at Hwy. 135 could be part of the solution as Mr. Norton suggests. In fact, alternatives to the Gatesco plan with 60 affordable/workforce housing rental units and 25 deed-restricted workforce/ housing lots are in the works, a long way from the 240-unit apartment project proposed. Utilities and services remain a significant challenge for this tract. In Crested Butte, the town could create an additional 30 to 50 affordable/workforce housing rental units near the school where residents could walk to town for work or services. Utilities essential for a development of this size are also available. Lastly, the town of Mt. Crested Butte might consider using some the funding from Biery Witt for affordable/ workforce housing instead of a pool. It seems like affordable/ workforce housing, both rental and deed-restricted lots, is an important issue for our entire community, so why hasn’t the Downtown Development Authority discussed this as an alternative? Land is also available north of town hall (and maybe other places as well) for approximately 50 or 60 affordable/workforce housing rental units perhaps. Add all of these proposed locations together and the shortfall of 180 affordable/ workforce housing rental units noted in the Needs Assessment is exceeded, but done as a strategic plan that makes impacts easier to address, meets the stated needs of those surveyed and offers opportunities for collaborative solutions and creative partnerships. Will the adoption of a strategic plan be “easy” as the Gatesco proposal appears to be for some? Probably not. Will a strategic plan as described above be a better solution? We think so, in that it offers varied opportunities for people to live nearer to their workplaces and not impose significant impacts on one community (Crested Butte) and one area (the Brush Creek corridor). Let’s table the Gatesco proposal for now and let the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison County, the private sector and most important, the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (which is totally excluded from the Gatesco project) develop a strategic solution as suggested. The Memorandum of Understanding, which governs the terms of ownership of the Brush Creek property, among the county, Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and CBMR, provides that the Brush Creek property can be sold if the proceeds of sale are utilized to find alternative sites suitable for the development of affordable/workforce housing. If the county and its partners sold the Brush Creek property at market value, the proceeds of sale would be available to fund this comprehensive and sensible plan and to fund development costs and/or ownership costs of the resulting affordable/workforce housing. Everyone in the Valley should be focused on both short- and long-term solutions and this can only be accomplished if a thoughtful, thorough and detailed plan is in place first.

Lawrence Brannian, Robert McCarter and Bob Pannier, Friends of Brush Creek