Economic Roadmap Group seeks clarity for developers
The Economic Roadmap Group met Tuesday with the Carbondale Board of Trustees and the Planning and Zoning Commission to update members on the process. Ten months ago and a year after a divisive vote on the Crystal River Marketplace big-box development the Economic Roadmap Group formed to heal the wounds and to make recommendations to the board of trustees and P & Z regarding further commercial development in the town.Tuesdays update was just the start in making the final recommendations, according to Town Manager Tom Baker, who added that the update meeting lets the boards know what the ERG is thinking about. The process will continue with a community meeting tentatively set for September and final recommendations after that. Baker was an integral part in bringing the different factions of the group together. The 14-member group was loosely divided between big-box supporters and opponents, and each person was partnered up with someone with differing views.Vicki and I are dear friends now, Ro Mead, co-chairwoman of the ERG, said of partner and fellow co-chairwoman Vicki Peterson.All of us have learned a lot. Ive learned how to listen, Mead said. Theres a lot of trust and honesty in this group.The healing has taken place. What seemed like a diverse group turned out to be a group with a lot of consensus, Mead said. We all want the best for Carbondale, she said.On Tuesday, Baker and Carbondale Community Development Director Doug Dotson gave a 20-minute presentation to board members on the progress of the ERG. The group is looking to create a process that is clear and upfront for potential developers. Developers need to know what is expected, what will fly and what wont, before they go through any legal wrangling.We need to tell developers what we want, what we need. If this was in place before (the marketplace debate) we couldve saved ourselves a lot of heartache, Mead said.ERG member Don Ensign agreed that clarity, certainty and predictability are important. Were in a position here in the community to dictate what we want because of the market now we can achieve it, he said.Baker admitted that Carbondale is getting a lot of attention from developers lately. He said it would not be responsible to say no to regional commercial development at this point. Regional commercial doesnt necessarily mean big-box, he was quick to add; it just means a business that draws shoppers from a larger area.We already have regional commercial, he said, citing Ace Hardware, which Peterson owns, as an example.Baker said the more business you do in town, the more money you have for community amenities through sales tax. Carbondale has a long wish list of what it wants, from land acquisitions, parks and trails to affordable and attainable housing, but all this takes money, he said.According to a recent survey by Economic Planning Systems, the Denver-based consultants assisting with the Roadmap process, 78 percent of every dollar residents spent in the 81623 ZIP code gets spent elsewhere. Thats called leakage, and one of the goals of the ERG is to stop the leak. The ERG got a positive response from the town council and P & Z, as members recognized all the hard work the group is doing to ensure Carbondale stays cool.
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