Carbondale split on the Marketplace |

Carbondale split on the Marketplace

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

Carbondale thinks of itself as a different drummer kind of town, and these days, folks are marching to lots of different tunes.

The band that got everyone hopping is Crystal River Marketplace, and the final dance is Tuesday’s vote on whether to approve the 252,000-square-foot shopping center.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Colorado native Marilyn McWilliams, a 54-year-old ex-hippie, favors the Marketplace.

“I’m not going to buy my underwear at Miser’s or Wal-Mart,” McWilliams said with a laugh, while drinking coffee with her husband at Java Joe’s Friday morning.

Janet Carney, a former ski bum who moved to Aspen from Chicago in the mid-1960s, doesn’t like the idea of a big-box retailer dominating town, and is also suspicious of the developer.

“We don’t know enough about him,” Carney said from her Thompson Corner porch Friday morning. “The developer hasn’t been really open with what he’s done.”

One of the few things Marketplace supporters and opponents agree upon is that the vote should be close.

“I think the town is very divided,” said Mitzi Hunter, manager of Miser’s Mercantile on Main Street.

McWilliams and her husband, Sean, moved to Carbondale from the Durango area three years ago. Sean is an ornamental ironworker, who in 1971 worked in Aspen with famed blacksmith Francis Whitaker. Sean, too, supports the Marketplace.

Both have seen growth affect their state.

“Years ago, I’d have just as soon all the people from out of state never came,” Marilyn McWilliams said. She finally “came to peace” with all the growth, decided the newcomers are here, and there’s nothing she can do about them.

“So now, we have to make it as nice as possible. I want a few stores to shop in,” she said.

The McWilliamses were sipping their coffee at one of Java Joe’s two outside tables. They regularly fill their Java Joe’s mugs at the Main Street coffee-and-chat joint.

Their 9-month-old cocker spaniel, Pal, lay quietly underneath Marilyn’s chair.

“She likes goldfish,” Marilyn said as she put her purse on the table and pulled out a handful of the crackers. “She doesn’t like dog treats.”

The couple started researching the Marketplace after Marilyn caught wind of it and told Sean, “We’ve got to get informed.” After viewing the Marketplace plans, Marilyn said she thought, “What’s the big deal? This is pretty nice.”

Sean McWilliams, who is opening a blacksmith shop, is focused on the boost the Marketplace would give to sales tax collections and local businesses.

“The Marketplace will bring more people to Carbondale, and some will spill over into downtown,” he said.

While Sean and Marilyn were finishing their coffee, Janet Carney was across town in her Thompson Corner dining room. Thompson Corner is the affordable housing section of River Valley Ranch, which Carney really likes.

“A deer ran across the yard two nights ago,” Carney said, as she stepped onto her honeysuckle covered porch. “I hear coyotes at night. That’s nice.”

Carney, a former school teacher, opposes the Marketplace. She and her husband, Rick, moved downvalley from Aspen years ago, and have raised four children. She isn’t opposed to development on the site. Rather than a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart or Target, Carney wants to see something smaller. “That’s all,” she said.

Carney understands the town needs more sales tax revenues.

“But I just don’t want to see the town grow so quickly,” she said. “I think you can shop in Glenwood Springs just fine.”

“The Marketplace will just bring more people, and more traffic,” Carney added.

“I don’t like malls, period. It’s cement, it’s people, it’s kids hanging out on the malls when they should be out on trails, or fishing in the river,” she said.

She also worries about who might be “lurking behind those buildings” at night.

“It would just change Carbondale,” she said.

California developer Brian Huster has released only limited information about his past business dealings and personal life. This bothers Carney.

“If someone is coming into your backyard, you really want to know what they are all about,” she said.

As for the Town Mothers, who oppose the Marketplace, Carney has praise for members Laurie Loeb, who started the Carbondale Mountain Fair, and Becky Young, who co-founded the Valley Journal.

“They know what they are talking about,” Carney said. “These are pretty heavyweight women.”

Mitzi Hunter, 26, was born and raised in Carbondale. She checked in at the Town Mothers information center, two doors down from Miser’s, Friday morning, and said she opposes the Marketplace.

“My take on it is it’s not quite what Carbondale needs,” Hunter said. “I’m not opposed to development of some sort, but this is a developer from California who is out to make a big profit. He’s not looking out for what Carbondale needs.”

Hunter’s mother, Sam, started Miser’s in the 1980s.

Mitzi Hunter said Marketplace supporters point to sales tax revenues as the main reason to vote for the project.

Opponents find many reasons to vote against it.

“There’s who’ll pay for highway improvements, the size and scale of the project, the charter of the Marketplace, the big-box absentee owners . It’s pretty complex,” she said.

Hunter admitted the Marketplace might hurt her business. “But it would survive,” she predicted.

Some Carbondale residents were too busy on Friday morning to chat much about the Marketplace.

Don Parris, who has lived in Carbondale off and on for five years, works for Aspen Glen and leans in favor of the Marketplace.

“I think we need some better shopping facilities,” he said during a quick in-and-out trip to the post office.

Manuel Damaso, who helps run Teresa’s Market on Main Street, said the Marketplace shouldn’t affect his business, but if it does, it might help.

“Cars will come by, and they might stop,” Damaso said while thumbing through the morning’s early invoices.

Teresa’s Market caters to Latinos, and sells groceries, cosmetics, jewelry, magazines and specialty products. Damaso said he isn’t worried a similar store might locate at the Marketplace.

“We’ve already got our customers, and we know them, so I don’t think we’ll lose them,” he said. If a similar store opened at the Marketplace, Damaso said, “We’ll probably supply them. We’ve got a warehouse.”

Only Carbondale residents can vote in Tuesday’s election, and many out-of-towners aren’t aware of the issues at hand.

Battlement Mesa resident Caroline Patscha is one of those folks. She was camping with friends at Ruedi Reservoir, and was reading the Valley Journal while waiting for a load of clothes outside Sopris Laundry Friday.

When told of the Crystal River Marketplace controversy, Patscha looked up from her newspaper and said, “If it gets turned down, maybe it will come to Battlement Mesa. We can use it.”

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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