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Marketplace’s current target unclear

Lynn Burton

The Crystal River Marketplace developer is still paddling toward final approval, although his direction is unclear.At Tuesday night’s Carbondale Board of Trustees meeting, an attorney for developer Brian Huster sent mixed messages whether his client is still working toward a 252,000-square-foot shopping center which would include a Target, or a shopping center with just a grocery store and other retailers one half that size.At one point, attorney Alan Schwartz said he had “abandoned” efforts to attract Target, and mentioned a “smaller scale” project. Moments later, in response to a question from Trustee David Rippe, Schwartz said the original application in still intact.In any case, big project or smaller project, Schwartz and fellow attorney Eric Gross were slapping water as frantically as they were through the summer.”We’re not in the hurry we were in,” Gross told trustees.”Our time table is a little more relaxed,” added Schwartz.The relaxed time table comes after Huster’s decision last week to withdraw a ballot question from the Nov. 5 election. The question would have asked voters to create a metropolitan district inside the Marketplace’s boundaries to pay for bonds that would finance upgrades to Highway 133.”We can wait until next November if we have to,” Schwartz said.The voters in the metropolitan district election would be the property owner or owners.At the end of Tuesday’s 90-minute discussion with Marketplace representatives, the Carbondale Board of Trustees asked for more information from the developer on Highway 133 financing, clarification on construction materials, options for a pared-down project, and more traffic counts.Mayor Michael Hassig, an architect, also asked for story poles to be placed at the Marketplace site. Story poles are typically lengths of two-inch plastic pipe that are stuck in the ground at building corners to show the height and mass of the buildings.”It helps understand where the buildings are located … to help move from abstraction to something concrete,” Hassig explained.Huster is proposing Crystal River Marketplace on 23 acres on the west side of Highway 133.The plan as it was submitted calls for a 125,000-square-foot site for a big-box retailer such as Target. The big-box component has been a lightning rod for protesters who oppose multi-billion-dollar retail chains like Target and Wal-Mart.Toward the end of the meeting, Schwartz said if Carbondale wants the developer to contribute $2.6 million toward Highway 133, which Huster has said is as high as he’ll go, the project must have a retailer that can generate those revenues.”That’s the key,” Schwartz said.If the developer cuts the project in half, Schwartz told trustees, he won’t be able to pay the $2.6 million for Highway 133 improvements.Schwartz was unavailable for comment at press time.The $2.6 million from the developer comes from $600,000 in up-front fees and $2 million from a 0.5 percent surcharge on sales from businesses at Crystal River Marketplace. The surcharge, called a Public Improvement Fee (PIF), would finance bonds issued by the metropolitan district. The Carbondale town government would not be responsible for the bond’s repayment.Carbondale has said it wants the developer to pay $3.5 million toward the $7 million to $9 million that will be required to upgrade Highway 133 from Main Street through the Roaring Fork River bridge. Carbondale has said it will use sales taxes generated at the Marketplace to finance its share of highway improvements.At the end of the Tuesday night discussion, trustees continued the Crystal River Marketplace review to the Oct. 1 meeting.In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting, trustees:-Continued a liquor license renewal hearing for the Taste Garden, and renewed liquor licenses for Main Street Spirits, and Zocalito Latin Bistro.-Decriminalized some municipal traffic offenses.-Amended the municipal code to create an offense for consumption of alcoholic beverages by a minor; previously, alcohol consumption offenses were heard in county court.


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