Getting question on ballot would cap things for Mountain Folks | PostIndependent.com
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Getting question on ballot would cap things for Mountain Folks

An activist group in Carbondale is calling the question on whether commercial buildings in the town should be limited to 60,000 square feet.The group, Mountain Folks for Global Justice, is circulating an initiative petition that would put the building-size-cap question to voters in a special election early next year. Only 134 signatures from Carbondale residents are required to put the question to a vote, said Mountain Folks member Laurie Stone.”I don’t think we’ll have a problem,” Stone said of the signature-gathering.The size cap is aimed at big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, which routinely build stores in the 100,000- to 150,000-square-foot range.”We want to preserve the scale and quality of life in Carbondale,” Stone said. “Carbondale is a small town. If we get lots of large buildings, it’s going to change Carbondale.”Stone and other Mountain Folks members have listed several specific reasons for keeping big-box retailers out of Carbondale during the past two years. They say stores like Wal-Mart will drive out existing businesses, increase traffic on an already overburdened Highway 133, and create environmental problems such as polluted runoff water from parking lots.Carbondale’s existing affordable-housing shortage would also worsen, Stone said, because big-box employees couldn’t afford to live in town on the wages they earn, and many would be forced to live as far away as Silt and Rifle.Stone said the dollars that flow into a big-box retailer’s cash registers also end up going to the company’s corporate headquarters, rather than staying in the town.Ted Reed, a part owner of Prudential Town & Country Realty, has spoken out against the Mountain Folks building size limit at several public forums.Reed said the 60,000-square-foot limit would prohibit other buildings, such as a medical facility. He concedes property owners could apply for a special use permit to exceed the 60,000-square-foot cap, “but there are so many hurdles to get over. … Businesses don’t want to spend time rewriting the rules.”Reed challenged the Mountain Folks claim that big-box stores will drive smaller, mom and pop stores, out of business. “We don’t have that many businesses to put out of business,” Reed said.Rather than hurt existing business, big-box retailers would attract customer traffic from the surrounding area, he said.”Boutique stores that don’t compete with bigger stores will pop up,” Reed said.Regarding affordable housing, Reed said, “People can’t afford to live in Carbondale already.”The petition being circulated includes a commercial zone text amendment that would limit building sizes in all six zone districts as follows:-HCC (Historic Commercial Core), A (Accommodations), CRW (Commercial/Retail/ Wholesale) – 60,000-square-foot maximum.-PCC (Planned Community Commercial) – 35,000-square-feet.-NC (Neighborhood Commercial), C/T (Commercial Transition) – 30,000-square-feet.The 60,000-square-foot building cap is part of a larger zoning change Mountain Folks proposed more than two years ago.Part of the original proposal called for property owners to conduct studies on impacts to the town their projects would create. Mountain Folks member Mike Chamness said that part of the Mountain Folks proposal was excluded, in part to streamline the ballot question.”The caps issue is simpler for voters to understand,” Chamness said.The zoning change has been reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Board of Trustees, but it was put on the back burner when the town’s attention once again turned to the proposed Crystal River Marketplace earlier this year.Chamness said the group decided to put the building size question to a vote of the people as a way to finally resolve the issue.”We had no illusions the building cap would pass the trustees,” Chamness said.


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