Carbondale in 2014 | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale in 2014

Will Grandbois
wgrandbois@postindependent.com

A decade down the road, 2014 will likely be remembered in Carbondale as the year Highway 133 got a face-lift.

This time last year, many locals were unaware of the impending multimillion-dollar overhaul, or saw it as a dream of a distant future. Now, what Mayor Stacey Bernot called "the largest road project the town has seen in 30 years" has brought Carbondale its first roundabout, eased congestion along the highway, set the stage for enhanced landscaping at the town's entrance, and provoked one of the year's most bitter controversies.

BONE OF CONTENTION

Like most aspects of the project, the decision to make a sculpture by James Surls the centerpiece of the new roundabout at Highway 133 and Main Street was made well before crews ever broke ground. When a model and drawings of the piece were released, however, some Carbondalians objected to the design and what they viewed as a rushed selection process. "Sewing the Future" ultimately proved more to scale and less intrusive than most critics expected, and prompted a fair amount of praise from the community, as well.

Colorado Rocky Mountain School's request for Garfield County to vacate an easement through the campus also prompted extensive dialogue. Although not quite in the town limits, the trustees had a chance to weigh in before the county had its say. Ultimately, though they acknowledged the security concerns, both the trustees and the commissioners came to the conclusion that the school wasn't offering enough in return, and the request was denied.

The Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District's board election proved more contentious than the trustee election, with two challengers running against three incumbents for three seats. Carl Smith ended up unseating Mark Chain, but long-serving members Gene Schilling and Mike Kennedy kept their seats. With four vying for three town council seats, Katrina Byars and Alexander Hobbs joined the board and Frosty Merriott stayed on. Bernot ran unopposed.

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Surprisingly little debate accompanied the rezoning of a stretch of Main Street. Some residents showed up to comment on the new Unified Development Code and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, but Bernot hopes for a stronger turnout before the documents are finalized.

"I wish there was more community dialogue on where we're going with things and where we want to go," she said.

OLD AND NEW

The town saw only a handful of brand new buildings in 2014, but got plenty of new businesses and new homes for established institutions.

After numerous additions to its old space, the Roaring Fork Family Practice office moved to a brand new building, the first constructed under the town's new green code. Although not in the city limits, the Powers Art Center also took a green approach to its new facility, which hosts a stunning array of work by Jasper Johns.

Main Street saw its first new commercial building in a while, at 319 Main on land owned by Trotwood Holdings, one of several LLCs with Dickensian names held by an Aspen law firm.

After plans to turn the old Gordon Cooper Library building into the Surls Center for Visual Art fell through, several groups vied for the space. The Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities and Dance Initiative ultimately won out, and the Launchpad debuted in the fall.

True Nature not only traded up for a larger space, it added a kitchen with teas, juices and raw foods, and an extensive peace garden with a patio, labyrinth and reflexology path.

Other new, resurrected or relocated businesses include Mary's Main Street Spirits, Studio 2 Salon, Boomerang, Tonic Juicery, the Roaring Fork Brewery, the Annex and SILO.

There's a distinct trend toward local food, which Bernot finds a little ironic.

"That's what this community was founded on until we developed the ranches and stopped growing our own food. Now it's coming back," she said.

Of course, Carbondale has another kind of growth. Three medical marijuana shops branched into recreational pot and another joined the game. Ultimately, Bernot won't be surprised to see as many as five recreational dispensaries. Luckily, most of the heavy lifting in terms of ordinances and regulation got done in 2014.

"I think Carbondale is getting used to it, and the industry is getting used to what we expect," Bernot said.

EVENTS AND RECREATION

In addition to its usual run of festivals, Carbondale hosted a dog agility trial and saw the return of the National Sheepdog Final at Strang Ranch. Big crowds came out to watch the Pro Challenge bike race's brief leg down Main Street, while the Electric Vehicle Rally of the Rockies buzzed through town almost unnoticed. The Lions Club returned to town, the Mountain Sopris Historical Society debuted the Shindig, and KDNK hosted its first Hootenanny.

A new bike park at the North Face property drew rave reviews, while two other parks received new names: Bonnie Fischer Park by the Third Street Center and Nuche Park next to the fish hatchery.

The town's plethora of activities earned it some ink in Sunset magazine and a chance to participate in the state's Creative District program, but its high divorce rate and cost of living also earned it a spot on CreditDonkey's list of Most Stressful Cities in Colorado.

NOT QUITE THE SHIRE

Although Carbondale is usually light on crime, even by Garfield County standards, a few incidents made headlines this year.

In July, a woman was charged with attempted murder for allegedly feeding her daughters rat poison. The same month, the Bureau of Land Management offered a reward for information on a pair of nail filled boards found on bike trails up Prince Creek. In October, five Carbondalians were arrested as part of a valleywide drug investigation, with more warrants pending.

There's also what Bernot calls "the major event that didn't happen": a small fire at the Dinkle Building during the Five Point Film Festival. A public servant spotted the smoldering remains from one of the fire pits in a window well and crews were able to quash the flames before they could spread to the rest of the building. The incident was believed to be unintentional, unlike another fire in the bathroom of the new Carbondale Library.

WHAT'S NEXT

Several big things have their roots in 2014, but have yet to see fruition.

Marble Distilling at 150 Main is expected to open soon, the Roaring Fork Co-op is planning an extensive renovation, and Planted Earth is under new ownership with some ideas in the works.

River Valley Ranch will select one or two official garbage haulers, which may prompt the trustees to revisit their trash regulations beyond the bear-proof emergency ordinance enacted in the fall.

Under new executive director Collin Laird, the Third Street Center will have to figure out what to do with the former home of the PAC3, and is also working on some enhanced kitchen facilities.

Ross Montessori school isn't expecting to open its new building near the Thompson House until 2016, and the Community Partnership development is still up in the air, but Roaring Fork High School's solar array looks like a sure thing. The Kroenke Group's purchase of the Crystal Village Plaza may or may not lead to changes. It likely depends on whether City Market opts for a new location on the Crystal River Marketplace parcel, which made it a whole year without a controversy.