Comments abound as project decision nears
CARBONDALE, Colorado – With a final decision on the Village at Crystal River development proposal getting close, several citizens lined up at Tuesday night’s town board meeting to give their last two cents worth on the long-debated project.
“I think we’ve found a developer who understands Carbondale a little better than the previous developer for this property, and maybe better than some of us,” said Russ Criswell, a former town trustee and outspoken critic of previous plans to put a big-box retail development on the 24-acre site along State Highway 133.
In contrast, the latest proposal by Denver developer Richard Schierburg calls for a total of no more than 125,000 square feet of new retail space, anchored by a new 58,000-square-foot City Market grocery store.
Other commercial uses could include a gas station, bank and a fast-food restaurant. Later development phases, depending on market demand, could include a hotel, medical facility, a school or light manufacturing of some sort.
In addition, the plan includes 15,000 square feet of office space, and up to 164 residential units.
The Carbondale Board of Trustees continued its public hearing until Nov. 1. At that time, a final list of proposed conditions is expected to be before the board. In addition, trustees would consider a formal ordinance that would grant zoning approval for the phased development plan.
Other residents joined Criswell in support of the project, which is going on four years in the town’s public review process.
“This whole corridor needs a facelift, and how you get there is fine by me,” said Rick Stevens, president of Aspen Earthmoving, which is headquartered near the project site east of Highway 133.
“We’re a business that buys locally and works locally, and we want to participate in this project,” said Stevens, a Basalt resident and former mayor of that town. “Even if we’re not given that opportunity [by the developer], we want a voice.”
Added Bill Grant, a retiree who now lives in Carbondale, “I’m in favor of this development, and I appreciate all of what the staff and the developer have done to make it a nice project. My only question is, what’s taken so long?”
Others, however, remain skeptical that the development will be a benefit to Carbondale and urged the trustees to turn it down.
“I know there’s been a lot of time invested here, but it’s OK to say ‘no’ to this,” said Carbondale resident Allyn Harvey. “It’s not the right project for this town.”
Harvey was especially critical of the planned 1 percent public improvements fee (PIF) that would be applied to retail sales within the Village at Crystal River to help pay the developer’s share of Highway 133 improvements.
“A PIF is a tax, and every other tax in Colorado has to go to the voters,” he said. “This should also go to the voters.”
Another local resident, Jen Boland, joined others who commented in pointing out that City Market, by moving to the new location, would leave a large empty storefront behind.
“I don’t get why we have to build a suburbia size store on one of the most beautiful pieces of land left in Carbondale,” she said.
Added Jason White, also of Carbondale, “I do see some positives, and this is a good location for development. But I don’t see this as being the plan, at least not now. Carbondale has the advantage of not being desperate.”
According to the tentative development agreements, construction would be spread out over seven phases. There would be several triggers along the way allowing for the zoning to remain intact.
One is that the grocery store would need to be built within three years.
“The three-year goal is realistic, but with a couple of caveats,” Schierburg said at the Tuesday hearing. “I can commit to that based on things I am in control of.”
But if the town takes longer than six months to approve the final plat for phase 1 once it is submitted, Schierburg asked for additional time to be tacked onto the three years. Trustees agreed to come up with wording to that effect.
The board also had several questions related to the design of the planned roundabout on Highway 133 at the development’s main entrance, which will be Nieslanik Way.
However, trustees agreed those details will need to be worked out with the Colorado Department of Transportation through the ongoing effort to redesign that section of Highway 133.
Other major conditions of approval for the Village at Crystal River property include:
• In addition to the PIF, the developer would also be allowed to form a limited metropolitan district, assessing a mill levy on commercial property within the development for a set period of time to help pay for public infrastructure.
• The City Market store and other buildings in the project would be built to recognized energy efficiency standards.
• A school would be allowed in the so-called “flex zone” portion of the project as a conditional use or special review by the town.
• Residential development would include 24 employee housing units to satisfy the project’s affordable housing requirement.
Other proposed conditions relate to open space and timing for park development, architectural design guidelines, parking and other details.
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