A Marketplace decision, at last? | PostIndependent.com

A Marketplace decision, at last?

Lynn Burton
Staff Writer

There is one thing opponents and supporters of Crystal River Marketplace agree upon. The review process has taken a long, long time.

“It’s been draining for everybody,” said Marketplace opponent Laurie Stone.

“I’m surprised it has taken this long,” said Marketplace supporter Chip Bishop.

“Everything has been said, and probably has been said for quite a while,” said Marketplace opponent Bob Schultz.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees will once again discuss the Crystal River Marketplace at a special meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, and are expected to make a final decision.

Trustees hoped to vote on the 252,000-square-foot shopping center in December, but numerous conditions placed on the project last summer by the Planning and Zoning Commission further delayed the process.

“I’m fairly tired of this,” said planning commission Chairman Mike Cerise. “It should have been months ahead by this point.”

California developer Brian Huster first submitted a development application for his 23.7-acre property on Highway 133 in September 2000.

The original plan called for 366,000 square feet of retail, commercial and residential space, but Huster cut the project to 255,000 square feet after residents protested the project.

Led by the grassroots Mountain Folks for Global Justice, residents also protested the smaller Crystal River Marketplace, particularly the 125,000-square-foot big box retailer Huster hopes to attract.

“This would put a lot of existing businesses out of business,” said Stone, who spoke against the Marketplace during public hearings.

In November, Marketplace supporters rallied for the final public hearings. Supporters, including the Carbondale Economic Development Committee, said the town needs the Marketplace to boost its sales tax base and attract more retailers to town.

“This is the economic draw we need to make all the stores more viable,” said Bishop, an Economic Development Committee member and also a certified public accountant, on Tuesday. “In retail, you need a critical mass that draws people. That’s something we don’t yet have.”

Schultz, a professional planning consultant and Mountain Folks member, said the Marketplace doesn’t fit into Carbondale’s comprehensive plan. And he predicts that with traffic impacts from the development, “Highway 133 problems will become much worse.”

Schultz said he also doesn’t like Huster’s approach to getting his project approved. “The town has a pretty good history of working with developers, but this guy has taken the hot poker in the eye approach,” Schultz said.

Huster has consistently refused to talk to the press, and his Carbondale attorneys were unavailable for comment.

Cerise has an opposite take on Huster, and pointed to the numerous planning commission conditions that Huster agreed to, including $2.8 million for improvements to Highway 133.

“I felt the developer worked fairly well with us on the problems,” Cerise said.

The planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval, and Cerise sided with the majority.

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