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Carbondale lays out economic roadmap

Carbondale’s Economic Roadmap Group presented its vision of the town’s economic future at a pair of community meetings Thursday.

About 100 citizens gathered at the separate afternoon and evening sessions held at town hall to hear the Roadmap Group’s findings and recommendations, and offer any additional thoughts.

Meanwhile, in an effort to avoid undermining the process, the Carbondale town council on Tuesday will consider a temporary, six-month ordinance establishing a 60,000 square-foot building size maximum for new commercial applications.



The cap would be intended to buy time for the town’s trustees to review and consider implementing the Roadmap Group’s recommendations, along with any necessary land-use code revisions.

“If a development application comes in and is deemed complete, the new regulations aren’t going to be codified in time to deal with that project,” Town Manager Tom Baker noted at a recent Roadmap Group meeting.



The recommendations are the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work by the 13-member citizen group, which was appointed in the aftermath of the contentious Crystal River Marketplace referendum in July 2003 to come up with a vision for Carbondale’s economic future.

“We came from all sides of the economic spectrum, with some very diverse views,” group co-chair Vicki Peterson said to open the evening session. “What we discovered was that we were not that far apart.”

The process involved meeting with more than 250 community members in small group sessions last fall. That also revealed that people held fairly common beliefs and desires for the town’s future.

“Community members spoke over and over about Carbondale’s unique strengths: character, diversity, arts, recreation, natural environment, alternative energy, non-profits,” group member Joani Matranga said. “They want an economic strategy that builds on these strengths.”

In addition to working with hired consultants Economic Planning Systems of Denver and conducting a community survey, the Roadmap Group has met weekly since late last year to hammer out a plan that fits the community’s vision.

The result is a list of 14 recommendations, which address such things as community design standards, a long-term capital improvements strategy for the town and revenue diversification.

One key recommendation, however, remains somewhat controversial ” regulating the size of new commercial buildings, a provision aimed at limiting “big box” style retail developments.

The group proposes a “soft cap” of 60,000 square feet of total floor area, or a 30,000 square foot building footprint, as a threshold for what the town would prefer. Development applications larger than that would have to enter a more rigorous special review process, looking at a variety of social, economic and environmental impacts to determine if the development was appropriate.

“This would support development similar to what is already happening in town, while preserving an opportunity for larger format retail for a niche anchor,” according to the group’s findings.


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