Carbondale voters vote today to decide Marketplace fate
Carbondale voters will settle a critical piece of their town’s future today when they decide if the Town Council’s approval of a shopping center should be upheld or overturned.Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Carbondale’s three precincts:-Precinct 1 – The Carbondale Fire Station, 3000 Meadowood Drive.-Precinct 2 – The River Valley Ranch Preview Barn, 333 River Valley Ranch Drive.-Precinct 3 – Carbondale Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave.The Town Council approved the 252,000 Crystal River Marketplace in February. That proposed development in the field between the Colorado Rocky Mountain School and City Market would include a 125,000-square-foot space for a big-box retailer.Supporters contend the project is needed to expand Carbondale’s shopping options and generate more sales tax revenues for the town’s budget. The town government had to dip into reserves last year when sales tax revenues dropped significantly. Meanwhile, the town has had to spend more on services for new residential areas.Developer Brian Huster’s team has promoted fairness throughout the campaign. Attorney Eric Gross and marketing consultant John Tindall noted that the property was zoned for commercial uses and that the town Master Plan contemplated high-density commercial development at the site. The Marketplace proposal features the 125,000-square-foot major retailer at a site that would be separated by a parking lot from the rest of the shopping center. A second major site would be a 58,000-square-foot space pegged for a grocery store. Three retail lots would be connected to the grocery anchor, providing another 45,000 square feet. Two freestanding retail lots would add 23,800 square feet. The last component of the project is a 12-pump gas station island. The big-box retailer and the grocery-anchored section would be separated by a 12-acre parking lot. Due to the zoning, Huster could have built his project without a Town Council vote – except for one major change. He needed the council to approve a subdivision of the lot, splitting the big-box site off so he could sell it to a prospective retailer. Critics of the council’s approval gathered enough signatures on a petition to force the issue to the town ballot. The Carbondale Town Mothers, a citizens’ group heading opposition, claim the project is out of scale with the town. The loss of small-town character would be too high of price to pay for increased sales tax revenues. The Marketplace would need to attract shoppers from Aspen to Rifle to be successful. Critics contend that extra traffic would overwhelm a road system already clogged at times. The Town Mothers want to force Huster back to the bargaining table to work on what would be a third proposal for the property. A first plan, that featured more spaces for small stores and a mixed-in residential component, was withdrawn in the face of community opposition. Huster’s team contends the foes don’t want to see anything developed. Foes counter they can accept development, just not as much as Huster wants and not with a national retail discounter as a major anchor.
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