Members of Telluride Town Council met as a subcommittee this week in an ongoing series of work sessions devoted to envisioning future uses for town-owned properties located along Black Bear Road, West Pacific Avenue and the Carhenge parking lot. The group has been meeting periodically since last year. The meeting Tuesday morning included an initial presentation from Walker Christensen of DHM Design, the firm selected by the town to guide them through the master plan process.

The majority of the committee’s discussion with Christensen focused on data and how the land is currently being used as the group gears up for an upcoming, all-day workshop in June. That workshop, Christensen said, will be an opportunity to “get the creative juices flowing” and contemplate future land uses and traffic circulation.

He charged the council members in attendance — Mayor Sean Murphy, Todd Brown, Tom Watkinson, Delanie Young, Geneva Shaunette and Lars Carlson — to consider what currently works, what needs improvement, and what each member’s vision and priorities would be for the land.

The land in question in the so-called Southwest Area Plan (SWAP) process includes Shandoka, the Boarding House, Virginia Placer and the Lot B development currently under construction. The area under consideration also includes various road right-of-ways along West Pacific Avenue, Black Bear Road, Mahoney Drive, South Tomboy Street and South Davis Street.

As town grows, the committee is working to stay ahead of the increased density and traffic that are a result of that growth. Currently SWAP has multiple zoning districts within its borders — mostly accommodations — with land designated as public purpose and commercial. According to Brown, said town officials were of a mind about the need to master plan the area.

“Growing population density, especially from town housing projects, Virginia Placer and Lot B, have contributed to additional traffic and parking issues, as well as pedestrian challenges, particularly for kids from that area getting to and from school, including pedestrian and bicycle traffic on West Pacific,” he said. “It's not a new problem, but one that's seeing increased attention. Going back to the ill-fated Coonskin Base planning work about 10 years ago, where the ski company ran into a buzzsaw of local resistance, the entire area has been treated with kid gloves and somewhat of a laissez-faire attitude. But this council, our planning department, and Public Works all agreed a master plan is needed.”

The age-old issue of parking — or lack thereof — is another motivator in the group’s work, Brown said. Also in attendance at many of these meetings, have been representatives of adjoining homeowners associations, keen to lend input and help mitigate potential impacts.

“There have been numerous issues brought to council through public comment about the inadequate parking in the area brought about by inadequately parked developments going back decades,” Brown said. The committee is wrestling with issues of “control of the Shandoka, Carhenge, and Lot B parking and plowing, which led to permit parking, and of commercial use along West Pacific Avenue.”

Watkinson wondered where Telluride Ski Resort “fell into this.” Staff assured him that once the committee arrived at a conceptual plan, outside interests could be brought into the discussion.

“For now the focus is on town-owned property,” town planner James Van Hooser said. “You are the stakeholders.”

Committee members expressed the desire for additional public input to guide them. It would be helpful, it was agreed, to seek input from residents of Shandoka, Virginia Placer and the Boarding House and others as the work progresses.

“We, as staff, can reach out to affected property owners (via a survey),” said the town’s newly hired planning director, Ron Quarles.

Brown and Murphy concurred. “There are perceptions beyond the committee we should bring in,” Brown said.

“We want this to be the most engaged process possible,” Murphy said.

In an interview with the Daily Planet after the meeting, Brown discussed the importance of the master planning process.

“We're trying to deal with the growing issues and the safety of circulation,” he said. “We haven't lost anyone that I know of from bicycles without lights going the wrong way on West Pacific at night, or pedestrians on West Pacific or Mahoney, but those areas are disasters waiting to happen. I'd say the town didn't create a lot of the issues, but on the other hand, past administrations didn't adequately plan or control the growth, so now it's a very important planning exercise.”

Further work with DHM continues June 11. Following a site walk the previous day, the group will begin identifying possible uses, culminating in an open house in which the public can respond to the work so far. A follow-up workshop is tentatively scheduled for late July.