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CRMS request on CR106 lights Satank’s fuse

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GarCo hearing Feb. 12

By Will Grandbois

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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It might be just outside city limits, but a recent request for Garfield County to vacate a section of County Road 106 is quickly becoming another Carbondale controversy.

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On one side is Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS), an institution that has coexisted with the town since 1953. On the other is unincorporated Satank, once a competitor for the railroad stopover and now a ’Bonedale neighborhood in all but the legal sense. Between CRMS and Satank is a little less than a quarter mile of County Road 106, which runs through the school campus before intersecting with Dolores Way. CRMS wants that section of County Road 106 vacated, while many Satankers and residents along Dolores Way want Garfield County to keep it on the books.

The Garfield County P&Z will consider CRMS’s request on Feb. 12, but has referred the issue to the town of Carbondale for comment. The Carbondale P&Z discussed the issue on Jan. 16. It will go before the town trustees on Jan. 28.

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CRMS has released a letter detailing its application, which is available along with supporting documentation from the town’s P&Z packet at soprissun.com/cr106.pdf.

The application explains what the school says was the process that closed the road to vehicular traffic in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This led to the construction of Dolores Way north of the campus, with the school paying part of the cost.

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CRMS is offering to provide a similar solution this time, by completing the construction of a bike path along Dolores Way from Satank to Highway 133, which will connect to a planned path on the west side of Highway 133. The school also offers to open the campus to through traffic in the event of an emergency that closes Dolores Way.

Finally, the proposal cites a traffic study that claims less than 20 non-CRMS individuals use the road on an average day; the school does not explicitly rule out continuing to allow the public through the campus at certain times.

Not satisfied

Many residents of both Carbondale and Satank aren’t satisfied with the deal. Several turned out at the P&Z on Jan. 16 and spoke.

“I’m getting such mixed signals from CRMS that it makes me wonder what’s really going on here,” Nancy Smith told the assembly. According to Smith, CRMS officials indicated that pedestrian traffic would likely be allowed to continue even if the easement was dropped, and that the intent was simply to allow the school the right to close its campus. The construction of a large berm at the north end of the property, however, has a lot of residents feeling as if they’re already being steered away from the route.

Joe White, CRMS’s spokesman at the meeting, said the berm wasn’t intended to block, just to guide. “Inviting more of the public through campus just doesn’t create the safest situation for schools,” he said. “We haven’t had any major safety incidents as a result of that public right-of-way, but we feel it’s our responsibility as a school to look after the possibility.”

White responded to assertions that having County Road 106 bisect the campus was the school’s fault by noting that recent construction has been intended to unify the campus, and that the design was fairly inevitable. The road vacation application, he said, is a fair one. “The alternate route that we’re proposing … not only is it as good, we think it’s a better route.”

Most of those at the P&Z meeting didn’t see it that way.

“I think a bicycle path on the side of (Highway) 133 would be good, but I don’t think it replaces what we have now,” Patrick Hunter replied. Addressing the issue of the Highway 133/Dolores Way intersection, he continued “We worked really hard trying to find an alternative to what we have now getting on (to) 133. We did a lot of research; we got shut down. Everybody just said ‘You’re going to have what you’ve got and that’s it.’ I think the problem’s only going to get worse, and nobody’s working on a solution.”

The intersection of Dolores Way and Highway 133 was, in fact, one of the major issues cited by opponents of CRMS’s plan. Satank resident and former town trustee Brad Hendricks observed, “It’s a bad intersection now, and I see scenarios that might make it a lot worse.” Specifically, he cited the planned roundabout on Main Street that he said will undermine the breaks in traffic that allow folks a chance to turn north at the stoplight-free intersection.

Planning & Zoning Committee Chairman Charlie Kees also observed that the County Road 106 easement is highlighted on Carbondale’s 2013 comprehensive plan for potential future development. In the event of development or if one of CRMS’s own parcels were subdivided, some feel a single road in and out might prove inadequate.

Members of the public and P&Z proposed alternatives to the CRMS vacation application, including the possibility for daytime access or an alternative right-of-way along the east side of the campus on CRMS property. In the end, the P&Z was divided. Two favored granting the request, four opposed it, and one was undecided.

Kees expressed his reservations this way: “As Satank continues to infill … (this is) going to become more and more of an issue. I would hope that if this (road) does get vacated, I would hope that they would continue to allow access. When I look at the plans and see the berm, it doesn’t look that genuine.”

The Carbondale Board of Trustees will discuss CRMS’s application for Garfield County to vacate CR106 on Jan. 28, and may or may not vote to make a formal recommendation.

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