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Roadmap specifics now up to trustees

CARBONDALE – The Carbondale Economic Roadmap Group (RMG) put 13 recommendations on the table Tuesday to “help us maintain our funky, lovable Carbondale character,” as RMG member Ro Mead put it.The RMG spent 15 months and put countless hours into preparing the document.It’s now up to the town trustees to decide which recommendations to adopt and put into the town code to guide future development.The issue will likely weigh into the upcoming negotiations between the RMG and developers of the Crystal River Marketplace, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 20. Trustees signed an agreement in December to work with the developers, effectively testing the grit of the RMG process. The negotiations are an attempt to come up with a plan for the Marketplace property that works for the developer financially, and for the town aesthetically. The charge of the trustees is not only to decide which parts of the RMG report will be adopted, but to come up with specific criteria that will serve as a guideline for developers who want to pursue development over the “soft cap” limit of a 30,000-square-foot footprint. The so-called design guidelines and standards have been generally alluded to in the RMG report, but not specifically written out.Next week’s meeting between the RMG and Marketplace may very well include a representative from Home Depot, the national home improvement center that has shown interest in locating in Carbondale. “There are several threads here of futures you can choose,” said Mayor Michael Hassig, looking through the 120-page RMG report.The report outlines various development scenarios for the Marketplace property created by consultant Economic and Planning Systems (EPS). “The fact is there are very few store opportunities for a large format retailer coming to Carbondale,” wrote EPS in the report. “We strongly encourage the RMG to talk about the specific opportunities (e.g. Home Depot) and whether or not a particular retailer is acceptable given the visions and expectations for (the Marketplace) and the overall objectives of the Strategic Plan.”The RMG has also outlined a 10-year capital investment strategy for the town. The plan includes spending millions of dollars on street maintenance and repair to protect the town’s investment in infrastructure, including more than $1 million on traffic and trails connectivity, $1.5 million for securing and improving the Carbondale Elementary School for the proposed Community Partnership Village, another $2 million for acquiring key properties, and several million for Highway 133 improvements. This strategy is doable with the current revenues and conservative growth projections, but will take what Town Manager Tom Baker calls a “revenue bridge” to make it happen.If Carbondale sticks with “business as usual,” meaning no significant new retail development, then the town will have an annual shortfall of $400,000 to implement its 10-year plan.The “bridge” that covers that shortfall until possible development starts generating revenue could come in the form of a .25 increase in sales tax and a 2 mil property tax rate increase. Those two strategies would generate about $400,000 a year, according to the RMG report, and could sunset in 10 years.Trustee Russ Criswell said he was ready to adopt the RMG recommendations immediately, and is anxious to get to work codifying the document and coming up with design guidelines.The Roadmap recognizes a need for more retail growth in Carbondale, but it will take some time to steer the type of desired development outlined in the report, Baker said.”It’s not like we’re saying ‘no more development,'” he said. “There is a huge potential for more commercial growth. What the (RMG) is saying is that it needs to be slower, more directed growth that meets the community’s needs,” Bakers said.”Implementation of this plan is up to the trustees,” he added. “The strategy that’s included in the packet is multiple years of work from the staff point of view.”The entire RMG document is available at Town Hall along with a Draft Implementation Plan. The document is also available on the town’s Web site (www.carbondalegov.org). “We have to tackle these recommendations one evening at a time,” Hassig said. “We have to look at this with that level of scrutiny.” The trustees will continue discussion of the Roadmap report and recommendations at their Tuesday, Jan. 17 work session meeting.


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