County denies commercial ‘village’ near Catherine Store
A proposed commercial and residential development next to Catherine Store in Carbondale was given a resounding no by the Garfield County planning and zoning commission Wednesday.The heart of the proposed development was a “neighborhood commercial village” on three and a third acres on what is now horse paddocks at Aspen Equestrian Estates. The 20,000 square feet of commercial development called for five buildings that could have housed everything from a veterinarian office to restaurants and retail shops.Developer Jay Weinberg, who built the Aspen Equestrian Estates residential development on the former Preshana Farms polo field, sold it two years ago but held on to the horse paddocks and barns.In all, the development covered 15.2 acres fronting on both Highway 82 and County Road 100, also known as Catherine Store Road. Plans for the land included four single-family homes and over five aces of open space with a large pond and walking trail. Technically, approval for the development hinged on a change to the county’s comprehensive land use plan enacted in 2000, which identified only residential use for that area.”This is a significant land use policy change,” said county planner Fred Jarman in outlining the plan to the P&Z Wednesday evening.Among the planning department’s concerns about the application were traffic impacts to both Highway 82 and Catherine Store Road from the commercial “village,” as well as what they viewed as questionable provisions for both water and sewer. The homes would also have replaced three employee housing units.Land planner Ron Liston, of Glenwood Springs, who presented the plan to the P&Z, argued that population growth in the area has created a demand for convenient commercial outlets.People naturally go to “the most convenient and easily accessible services,” he said. Catherine Store, which sells gasoline, liquor and convenience-type groceries, has been in operation for decades at the intersection of Highway 82 and Catherine Store Road.Liston also said that developing a commercial shopping area at that location would preclude similar development on the north side of the road.About 20 residents of that area sat through the four-hour meeting to have their say about the proposed development.Bart Johnson, of Blue Creek Ranch, across Catherine Store Road from Aspen Equestrian Estates, disagreed with Liston’s assessment.”Commercial begets commercial,” he said, noting both Carbondale and El Jebel are within convenient reach for shopping.As a member of the Blue Creek Ranch homeowners association, he said the entire group opposed the development.Former Carbondale town manager Davis Farrar also voiced his opposition both to the plan itself as well as the need to amend the county’s land use plan.”If you need to amend the comprehensive plan … let the public weigh in on it,” he said. The P&Z plans to review the plan this spring.After hearing from the developer and the public, the planning commission took quick action. It unanimously denied the developer’s request to amend the comprehensive plan that would have allowed the project to go forward. With that decision, the proposal itself could not be given further consideration by the commission.
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