Carbondale to assess possibilities after $2.4M land donation to town
Perhaps the biggest and best holiday gift of all in the Roaring Fork Valley was given to the town of Carbondale just before the calendar turned to 2022.
Carbondale trustees are seeking a consultant to assess what the town possesses, and what could be, following the roughly $2.4 million dedication of several undeveloped downtown parcels of land into the public’s trust.
During a Dec. 28, 2021, special meeting, the Carbondale Board of Trustees accepted a gift from the owners of 14 vacant parcels in the Town Center development located across Colorado Avenue from Carbondale Town Hall and the town’s recreation center.
With the exception of a commercial building fronting Fourth and Colorado and the Thunder River Theatre Co. building situated in the middle along Promenade Way, the area has remained undeveloped since it was subdivided in the early 2000s after the former Bonanza Mobile Home Park was razed.
The year-end donation also included two vacant parcels at the southeast corner of Fourth and Main streets that for several years have been used by special agreement with the owners as a venue for numerous town events and a winter ice-skating rink.
According to Garfield County Assessor’s Office records, the properties had been owned by a pair of limited liability companies, Pickwick Holdings LLC and Equanimous Holdings LLC. The registered agent listed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office was Carbondale attorney Randy Metz, but no specific owners were named in the state filings.
Town officials indicated at the time of the donation that the donors intended to remain anonymous.
Garfield County’s assessed valuation (not market value) for the properties combined comes to just under $2.4 million, according to county records.
Trustees, at their regular meeting Tuesday night, agreed they want to get a better handle on what exactly the town now owns before making any decisions on how to utilize it.
“This was a very generous donation, and we are very grateful,” said Mayor Dan Richardson, who is not running for re-election in the April town election.
“A lot of due diligence was done on this property, and several developers have looked at it,” Richardson said. “I think we can benefit from that information.”
To get there, at least in terms of the Town Center parcels, the town plans to hire a consultant to research whatever due diligence previous would-be developers had done regarding possible uses.
That assessment might also factor in the town-owned property at the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, which the town previously purchased in an effort to preserve it for public parking.
What the initial study won’t include, trustees agreed, is the property on Main Street next to the Fourth Street Plaza.
The town’s consensus has long been to preserve that area for a public park and events venue, should it come into public ownership.
At some point, the town will want to decide how to handle the Fourth and Main parcels, said Trustee Ben Bohmfalk, who is running unopposed for mayor in April.
That might involve formally handing it over to the Parks and Recreation Department for management, he said. In any case, its future as a park should be memorialized in some way, Bohmfalk said.
Honorary student trustee and Roaring Fork High School student Boden Hamilton informed the board that he polled the student body at the school, and they agreed it should remain a park, including maintaining the ice rink in the winter.
As for the Town Center property, which is zoned for a mix of commercial and residential uses, Bohmfalk said it would be helpful to hear from some of the previous players why the area was never developed.
“Why hasn’t it been built out? What was the death knell? … probably parking,” he surmised.
Trustee Marty Silverstein agreed there are many different opinions on what to do with the land.
“It would be good to get a consultants’ view on what’s possible,” he said.
Trustee Heather Henry said the land donation opens the door to various public-private partnerships to help achieve some of the town’s development goals, especially as it relates to the ongoing town Comprehensive Plan update.
Affordable housing has been mentioned as a possible focus, along with commercial development to serve as an extension of downtown.
Trustees also agreed that, once the assessment is done, there should be an extensive public outreach process to help determine how to proceed.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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