Carbondale’s mayoral candidates pave the way for naming Highway 133
The future of Highway 133 is anybody’s guess, but two Carbondale mayoral candidates floated the idea of naming the in-town stretch.Candidate Michael Hassig said the town’s comprehensive plan views Highway 133 as a town street.Candidate Randy Vanderhurst said if Carbondale’s stretch of Highway 133 were named, it would create more town ownership.Their comments, along with those of mayoral contender Erik Mazur, came Thursday at a mayoral candidates’ forum, sponsored by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Journal and Sopris Surfers.The meatiest topics of the night included the proposed Crystal River Marketplace, and projected budget deficits, but the candidates chewed on Highway 133 the most.Vanderhurst and Hassig said highway upgrades are not in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s long-range budget, so it will probably be up to the town to do the work.”It (Highway 133) needs to be bought into by the community,” said Vanderhurst.He said it will cost $13 million to four-lane Highway 133 through town, and $23 million to fix the Highway 82/133 intersection, which is outside the town limits.Hassig, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, said Carbondale might consider a two-pronged approach to fixing Highway 133.First, a special improvement district on Highway 133 could be created with voter approval. A property tax increase could be used for long term bonds to fund highway upgrades.”It’s not a simple task, but it’s do-able,” Hassig said.The second prong would be traffic impact fees for the peripheral areas in town.Hassig also warned against dipping into the general fund for Highway 133. He said improving Highway 133, with hopes of attracting more shoppers and generating more sales tax revenue, “is like chasing yourself uphill.”
Vanderhurst, the seven-year incumbent, said funding Highway 133 improvements will require multiple sources, which could include traffic impact fees.Vanderhurst said he is looking at a couple of federal sources. One of those sources might fund improvements if Carbondale participated in a cold-weather asphalt test. Highway 133 is also a state scenic byway, so funds might also be available due to the designation.Vanderhurst said Carbondale already receives $65,000 per year in a rebate from the 0.5 percent local RTA tax that voters approved last November.
Mazur said Carbondale could pay for the improvements, then have CDOT pay the town back, “like they did Aspen.”Forum debate also centered on the projected 2003 budget shortfall, which could eat up the town’s general fund reserve by 2006.”I don’t think it will happen as quickly, or be as severe,” Mazur said.His solution is an economic development push. He wouldn’t favor a property tax hike to make up the deficits, and he would cut services last.Vanderhurst also said the town should continue with an economic development push to increase sales-tax revenues. He pointed to a $1.94 million general fund “rainy day” reserve and said, “It might only be drizzling. … We could be okay for a year or two … I don’t think services will be curtailed.”Hassig was less enthusiastic about an economic development solution.”In many respects, it’s out of our control,” he said. “The only control the town has is what our expenses will be.”No discussion in Carbondale is complete these days without a mention of the proposed Crystal River Marketplace on Highway 133.Hassig said he agreed with building size caps, which the trustees eventually eliminated from zoning changes currently being considered. Because the Marketplace is scheduled for P&Z review on Thursday, Hassig indicated he couldn’t comment much.”I’m for it,” Mazur said of the commercial development, although he does have concerns over landscaping, and wants the town to work with developers to create an underground park-and-ride lot on the 25-acre property.Vanderhurst endorsed the development as well, noting that it was annexed and zoned for commercial uses in 1979. “This could fit. … It’s part of our town … It’s infill. I’m in favor of it, yes,” he said.Carbondale’s election is April 2. There are also nine candidates running for three Board of Trustees seats.
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