Carbondale trustees dive into Mountain Folks zoning proposals
Carbondale’s trustees stepped boldly into the shallow end of the Mountain Folks for Global Justice zoning amendments Tuesday night, but deeper waters await.In an hour, the trustees waded through two of five zoning-amendment categories, and reached a consensus agreement for approval, but continued discussion on the three more complicated categories.Confused already? Join the party.At one point, trustees theorized the proposed zoning could force the hypothetical developer of a 400,000-square-foot parking lot to buy a $250,000 street sweeper to keep dust levels down.”This is not easy,” trustee Russ Criswell told the board in reference to the proposal’s complexity. “But if we’re going to have a decent place to live, we need to do it.”The meat of the Mountain Folks zoning proposal is found in five charts drafted by town staff. They explain five study areas that developers would be required to address, or not address, under varying circumstances.For example, a development on the high-and-dry East Mesa above town would not be required to address river habitat issues, town planner Mark Chain explained. A developer closer to the river probably would have to address those issues.The five study areas are environment, fiscal considerations, utility/municipal services, traffic and community impacts.Development impact mitigation would be required in some cases. For example, buffers, setbacks, landscaping and/or other methods might be required to mitigate noise, dust, fumes and air pollution.Tuesday night was the first opportunity for trustees to fully discuss the proposal line by line, and its complexity hit the surface early.Trustee Andrew Montoya kicked things off by wondering if a big-box developer on Highway 133 would be required to mitigate vehicle pollution, and pointed out new cars pollute much less than cars from the 1960s.”Is it doable?” Montoya asked of a potential air pollution study.Town manager John Hier said the noise, dust, fumes and air pollution impacts pertain to things coming from a building itself and not, for example, vehicles traveling to that building.”This is specific to the building,” Hier said.The environmental element calls for developers to describe the existing physical characteristics of the site, including topography, slope, soils, wetlands, groundwater, vegetation, wildlife and wildlife habitat, endangered plant or animal species, nearby water wells and a public water supply.Town staff could waive study areas that don’t apply, and developers could appeal staff-mandated studies to the board of trustees.The trustees let stand in its entirety the environmental element of the charts, which the planning and zoning commission recommended for approval last year.The fiscal element in the charts calls for five studies or reports, including projected tax revenues on a yearly basis, long and short term projection of town revenues and costs, background market information and financial feasibility to justify the project.The trustees deleted the last provision. “A lot of that information is proprietary,” Hier said. “They’ll be reluctant to unveil it.”Trustees replaced the last provision and instead will require developers to provide resumes of past projects.Contractor and former trustee David Rippe spoke against the Mountain Folks zoning proposal. He said developers will ask, “What are the rules of engagement?”Trustee Mark Whalen admitted early in the meeting that sections seem “open-ended.”Hier at one point said applying the zoning will be “a learning experience.”Still coming for trustee consideration are the traffic, community impact, and utility/municipal services parts of the zoning charts.Staff has recommended that several parts of the three remaining charts be deleted. The P&Z wanted them kept intact.Mountain Folks for Global Justice proposed the zoning changes last year as a way to prevent too many big-box retailers from coming to Carbondale.The original Mountain Folks proposal called for a 60,000-square-foot building cap, but trustees voted 4-3 last week to delete that provision.
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