Mountain Town Economics, Pt 2: Housing, Community, & Core Values (Ep.179)

Our guest today on the Blister Podcast is Troy Russ, the community development director of Crested Butte. Troy has a long history in community planning and development, so is able to provide an incredibly well-informed perspective on a broad range of topics, and there are a lot of relevant considerations and takeaways for mountain communities everywhere.
The Pitchfork neighborhood in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado.

This week we are talking again about a number of the logistics facing most mountain town communities — and discussing a number of potential solutions. So if you are someone who lives in a mountain town or you are someone who loves to visit them, you ought to listen to this conversation.

Our guest today is Troy Russ, who is the community development director of Crested Butte. Troy has a long history in community planning and development, so is able to provide an incredibly well-informed perspective on these topics. He also happens to be a passionate skier, a beer aficionado, and my neighbor, and I really believe that you are going to enjoy and appreciate getting to hear Troy’s take on a number of these very big topics, as much as I do.


  • Troy’s background in community planning (2:08)
  • Thoughts on our previous Blister Podcast on housing (4:31)
  • Linear Thinking vs. Comprehensive Thinking (8:52)
  • Importance of identifying Core Values (12:41)
  • Affordable housing & short-term rentals (17:07)
  • Development solutions: pros & cons (20:00)
  • Deed restrictions (21:58)
  • ADUs: Accessory Dwelling Units (24:23)
  • Creating & maintaining a sustainable economy (31:02)
  • Evaluating various tax initiatives: pros & cons (36:04)
  • Case study: the Brush Creek Project of Crested Butte (39:04)
  • Nostalgia (47:16)
  • Protecting & preserving uniqueness through change (50:50)
  • Importance of community participation (54:33)


7 comments on “Mountain Town Economics, Pt 2: Housing, Community, & Core Values (Ep.179)”

  1. Great podcast… Everyone who lives, owns a second home, or sets a step in a mountain town should listen to this conversation.

  2. Thanks for amplifying this conversation! I feel like the final call to participate belies the extent to which participation in these meetings and spaces is not representative. The people who can attend these meetings are generally white homeowners with time on their hands. Homeowners also tend to be the most enfranchised members of any community when it comes to electoral politics, which makes them an overrepresented constituency. Homeowners also have a very rationale interest in not diluting their own investment by increasing the housing stock, blocking their views, or creating more traffic on their streets. Mr. Russ doesn’t believe we’re going to build our way out of this, and I don’t think any YIMBY would claim that smart development is the silver bullet. But building (especially the dense, vertical type, near transit and amenities) and inclusionary zoning are most certainly going to be part of the solution. I would suggest inviting Jerusalem Demsas of Vox on the show to round out this conversation — she’s a really smart voice on this topic. You can scope out her recent interview on the Ezra Klein Show.

  3. I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from these last two podcasts. Question, are SRTs being taxed and zoned like hotel rooms? (Transient Tax, commercial zoning unless by conditional use). If not, then they are not playing fair. They need to be on the same playing field as hotels, because that’s what they are. Seems like regulatory pressure for SRTs to convert to ADUs would be a smart move in mountain towns. And no “grandfathering” either, unless they were specifically allowed in the zoning code in the first place.

  4. I think the SRT situaty’re ion gets an excessively bad rap in CB.
    In town, there really aren’t any hotel options. There never have been. So for anyone who wants to visit and stay in town, as opposed to on Mt. CB, turning to the local property management companies/VRBO/airbnb has been the only real option for a long time.
    This especially true for families, where the only real call is whether to rent an SRT in town or on the mountain. Sorry Elevation and whatever the Grand Lodge calls itself at this point, but they’re fundamentally less attractive options for a visit to Crested Butte.
    Obviously there are closely interrelated housing issues, maybe even more dire, on the mountain. There’s admittedly an issue with renting condos/duplexes as SRTs… and that’s a big piece of the stock on the mountain. Gunnison is a little bit its own beast, but CB South through Mt. CB really have an interconnected housing stock for ownership and rental by locals, and second-homeowner stock focused on CB and Mt. CB.

    So at least from my perspective – now a frequent visitor with a family, coming to CB since the 90s as a kid, and with family in town – SRTs just within the bounds of CB aren’t the problem. SRTs on the mountain are a huge problem. And the big picture project of ensuring that people who work in CB can live somewhere nearby is admirable, but a ton hinges on Vail, who appears to be shrugging and ignoring the problem of where their employees will live. Without the mountain, we don’t have a town any more. I’d love to hear Troy’s thoughts on how CB/MtCB/CB South interact and how the dialog plays with Vail Resorts in a future episode.

  5. There was little talk in this podcast about funding sources for this grand scheme of remaking Crested Butte. Having lived here off and on for over three decades, the key take-away is quirky, fun, outdoor oriented paradise. Modular housing and/or tiny homes, built in Colorado for this climate would quickly resolve the AH issue. Why this grandiose plan that, in some analysis resemble democratic socialism, is purported to “define our community values” necessary to be imposed on a community that has done very well for over a century without such urban roots crafted over reach wonkism? Seems to me such a radical policy imposition that affects all should be aired loudly, frequently and publicly. Put it on posters everywhere for all to see and read. Stop the exclusive executive council persuasion sessions. Inform the public. Now is a good time for transparency to see and digest the true implications for all, not the utopian dialogue spoon feeding

  6. Another great episode, and great to hear this perspective. I agree that in order to keep a community strong you need planning. SRT moratorium? Current SRTs are so excited about this! They can jack up prices even more! You can’t build your way out of this. “Dark Tax” is the way. I am in a seasonal coastal community and the fundamental issue is the wealth divide. Someone can afford a multimillion dollar home that they occupy a few weeks a year, don’t bother even SRT, and yet the cleaning staff is packed into an illegal (sometimes unsafe) unit in someone’s basement. Figuring out how to heavily tax these is a huge step forward. Most will just pay that tax (same for the accessory unit tax), and I am all for having a few of these homes in town to help bring in money. But when too much of the town is hyper wealthy occasional visitors… no longer a community. I just saw a bumper sticker: “2 million dollar home and 6 weeks a year does not make you a local”

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