Village at Crystal River would bring a modern commercial development to Carbondale |

Village at Crystal River would bring a modern commercial development to Carbondale

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

CARBONDALE, Colorado – If voters here preserve the recent governmental approvals of the Village at Crystal River project, they will be endorsing a development plan that dates back to 2008.

On Sept. 10 of that year, developer Rich Schierburg submitted his planned unit development (PUD) application to the town, kicking off what has, so far, been a contentious process of reviews and public hearings over the past three years.

At stake is the future of a 24-acre pasture close to Carbondale’s crossroads, on the west side of Highway 133 and just north of Main Street, behind the 7-Eleven store.

Schierburg, based in Denver, hopes to build 125,000 square feet of commercial and retail space – anchored by a relocated City Market grocery store of up to 60,000 square feet – plus 15,000 square feet of office space, and up to 164 residential units.

Other allowed commercial uses include a gas station, bank and fast-food restaurant. Later development phases, depending on market demand, could include such businesses as a hotel, medical facility, senior care facility, school or light manufacturing.

Though Schierburg and the town have been working on the project for three years, development proposals for the site, formerly owned by Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS), began nearly a decade earlier.

In 1999, a Telluride-based development company, Crystal River Development, headed by developer Brian Huster, purchased the land from CRMS.

Huster’s development proposal for the site caused a split among residents and town officials. The controversy culminated in a 2003 election that overturned the town’s approvals for what was then known as the Crystal River Marketplace.

A year-long community planning process, known as the Roadmap Group, followed that election. In 2006 the town began working with Schierburg, who purchased the development site from Huster.

Following more than two years of negotiations and planning, the project went through nine public hearings before the town’s planning and zoning commission from April 1 to Dec. 10, 2009. The hearings led to a recommendation for approval that went to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

The trustees then embarked on a second review process, starting on Feb. 9, 2010. A total of 27 public hearings later, on Nov. 1, 2011, the board approved Schierburg’s PUD plan.

But at the same time, the trustees voted to put the project to another townwide vote. It was clear that a threatened petition drive by project opponents would force an election anyway.

According to documents posted on the town of Carbondale’s website, the project is divided into three zone districts.

One, labeled Z1, is to be made up of retail, office, commercial and residential uses, with a “mixed-use” component of multi-story retail and residential development. This is envisioned as a grocery store on the ground floor, with up to 20 employee housing units built above.

Another zone district, labeled Z2, is to comprise a mix of apartments and condominiums.

The third district, labeled Z3, is a “residential and live/work” section and forms the southern end of the project site along Main Street. It would feature small-business spaces fronting on the street with apartments above.

The maximum number of residential units in the project overall is set at 164, scattered throughout the project site.

The project’s buildings are capped at three stories, with heights of up to 42 feet, and the overall development is to take place over the course of up to 20 years in six phases.

The town granted vested rights for the development of up to 12 years, if all of the town’s conditions of approval are met according to a schedule that coincides with the phases set out in the PUD development plan.

The first phase is to include construction of the grocery store, the roundabout and other highway improvements and the bike path. Phase one is to be finished within three years of approval of the project.

Along with development of the commercial and residential components, Schierburg won approval to assess a “public improvements fee” on gross sales at the businesses within the shopping complex.

The 1 percent public improvements fee, or PIF, would be charged on all sales in the village commercial areas. Shoppers would pay $1 per $100 of goods, in addition to existing state, county and town sales taxes.

The proceeds of the public improvements fee, or PIF, as it is known, would pay strictly for $2.4 million in improvements to Highway 133. These include a roundabout at a new entrance from Highway 133 at Nieslanik Avenue, plus landscaping, lighting and utility improvements along the highway.

The construction is to be financed by the sale of bonds, which will be repaid by the PIF revenues. Total repayment costs, with interest, are estimated at $5 million or more over 20 years.

The developer also has permission to assess a property tax of up to 4.0 mills on commercial property. The proceeds would pay for operations and maintenance costs associated with the project, including legal and financial obligations of a metropolitan district created for the site.

Both the PIF and the property tax are to be discontinued once all initial improvement costs are repaid.

Schierburg has committed to building parks within the project in phases keyed to construction of the residential areas.

When the first homes are platted, according to the development agreement, Schierburg is to build the first of three parks, a one-quarter acre facility close to the homes being built.

The second park, a half-acre in size, is to be constructed when the 46th home is platted.

A third park, with the size to be determined by the ultimate number of homes constructed, is to be started when the 91st home is platted.

The 164 homes are to be subject to a 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Assessment (RETA). Revenues would go to the town to pay for affordable housing, recreation, parks and open space programs.

Under the terms of the agreement, the initial sale of any unit is exempted from the RETA, as are certain subsequent sales in which prices meet the appreciation caps set out in the town’s affordable housing guidelines. Beyond those exceptions, all residential property transfers would be subject to the RETA in perpetuity.

Other details concerning the project approvals can be found on the town’s website,, via the link “The Village at Crystal River Documents.”

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