Carbondale Corner: Beyond the tweets, town sets priorities

Ben Bohmfalk

While the nation’s attention is focused on the daily developments in Washington, D.C., your elected representatives on the Carbondale Board of Trustees continue to work right here on the local level to meet our town’s goals of being a diverse, sustainable, vibrant place for all kinds of people to live, work and play.

If you’re looking for a way to get involved and have a positive impact on your community, consider volunteering on a town board, attending a Board of Trustees meeting (held the second, third, and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m.), or contacting one of us with your thoughts. We recently drafted our priorities for the year, outlined here so you can see where we’re headed and get involved.

Our top priority for the year is to increase the availability of affordable housing in Carbondale so we maintain our diversity and vitality. We’ve already made some progress, by adding guidelines for developers to build affordable rental housing in conjunction with free-market developments, and by rezoning some properties to allow mixed-use development that will include 20 percent affordable and 20 percent resident-owner occupied housing.

But the free market cannot solve our housing crunch on its own. We are excited about the prospect of a new regional housing authority that would enable Roaring Fork Valley towns and counties to generate revenue, pool resources and develop workforce housing in a concerted regional effort for the first time. We’re also working with Carbondale Arts to support the Space to Create initiative, which will provide affordable housing and work space for local artists in the Carbondale Creative District. Finally, the Roaring Fork School district will soon go through our approval process to build 15-20 affordable rental units for teachers on 3rd Street in Carbondale. Through the combination of these public and private efforts, we are making significant strides toward our affordable housing goals.

Another long-term priority for the Town of Carbondale is to reduce our environmental impacts and work toward sustainability. This year we will explore the merits of developing an environmental charter for our town, pulling our many energy and environmental initiatives under one umbrella. We will discuss how our town government can lead the way and set an example in how we use resources and deal with our waste.

We will consider whether expanding our plastic bag ban to more businesses is the best thing we can do to reduce our impacts on the environment, or whether we should take other steps instead. We will work with our Environmental Board and other groups of dedicated residents to determine how to proceed.

The last priorities I’ll outline here are related: We want to expand mobility options for Carbondalians beyond the current route of the RFTA Circulator, and we want to identify a sustainable source of funding for capital improvements after a property tax was rejected by voters last year. These are related because discussions of an expanded Circulator route or other mobility options immediately collide with our budgetary realities.

This year we had to dip into reserves just to make the minimal necessary capital improvements. We have made progress toward safer bike and pedestrian routes with plans for increased lighting and clearer priority corridors. Innovative ideas like WeCycle (a bike-share program in Aspen and Basalt) and ride-share programs (modeled on Uber) may be able to enhance mobility for less cost than an expanded bus route, but they still come at a cost.

Our local economy is strong and our sales tax revenues increase annually, but to make significant investments in our streets, trails, transit, parks and other amenities, we’re going to need more revenue. Where we find it will be a major focus of our work this year.

So before you expend all your political energy debating the next tweet or executive order that emanates from Washington, consider helping us accomplish some of these goals right here in Carbondale. We’ll need all the creative solutions and community support we can muster to accomplish all this in 2017, and we can’t do it without you.

Ben Bohmfalk is a Carbondale trustee.

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