Carbondale unfolds Economic Roadmap
CARBONDALE – Carbondale’s Economic Roadmap Group has presented its final recommendations to the Board of Trustees and will go over the thick document at Tuesday’s town council meeting. Trustees, with help from the Planning and Zoning Commission, will ultimately decide how much power to give the recommendations in shaping Carbondale’s economic future.The citizen-based Roadmap Group (RMG) hopes they will eventually be written into the town code to direct future commercial development.RMG co-chair Ro Mead said the integrity of the group’s work needs to be protected, as countless hours have been spent gathering the information that’s included in the final report.”It’s an incredible document,” Mead said. “What is says is that we love Carbondale and we want to maintain its character and we want slow and sustainable growth.”The RMG was born out of the bitter battle over the proposed Crystal River Marketplace big box development three years ago. A referendum defeated California developer Brian Huster’s plans, which included an undefined, 125,000 square-foot anchor retail store.Afterwards, town trustees appointed the RMG, attempting to bring together people with differing views. The group’s charge was to come up with an economic development plan that would put Carbondale on more secure financial ground while retaining its small-town character. The final report combines data from a citizen survey and a series of community meetings involving more than 250 citizens. The document is available at Carbondale Town Hall for public scrutiny.The long-awaited Carbondale Economic Development and Community Sustainability Plan also includes 13 formal recommendations.Among them is a proposal to place a 30,000 square-foot (60,000 SF two stories) “soft cap” on new commercial buildings. Development applications including buildings larger than that would have to go through a more stringent review and impact mitigation process.”We do not believe that our future is based upon competition with the variety of big-box, comparison shopping that exists, and continues to expand, in Glenwood Springs and Rifle,” the RMG report states. “We cannot stress enough that our economic development strategy should build upon existing community strengths.”That involves building on Carbondale’s “intimate, diverse, vibrant community capitalizing on and nurturing its assets of arts, recreation, education, healthy living and natural environment,” according to a mission statement contained in the report.”Economic development is sought to enhance our small-town character, ensure fiscal soundness and maintain a balance between its existing businesses and new opportunities and meets the needs of our residents,” it concludes.While the report steers the town away from a big-box type of development, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility.Economic and Planning Systems (EPS), the consulting firm hired to study the economic side of Carbondale’s future, presented four development options for the 25-acre Marketplace property on Highway 133, including a big box retailer such as a Home Depot, which has shown some interest in locating in Carbondale.EPS determined that up to 250,000 square feet of total commercial space could be built on the property. Options range from a more modest commercial development around a 30,000 square-foot anchor, to a larger 100,000-plus square-foot anchor.Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., with the Roadmap discussion scheduled for approximately 7:30.
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