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Questioning the candidates

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2014 Carbondale trustee election

Questioning the candidates

By Lynn Burton

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Sopris Sun Editor

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Carbondale voters have until 7 p.m. on April 1 to cast their ballots in the 2014 municipal elections. Mayor Stacey Bernot is running unopposed. The four candidates for the three trustee seats are: Katrina Byars, Alexander (AJ) Hobbs, Wayne Horak and Frosty Merriott.

The Sopris Sun asked the candidates the following questions to answer via e-mail. On a related note, The Sopris Sun article about the March 10 candidate forum can be accessed at soprissun.com; so can the GrassRoots TV coverage of the event.

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The Questions:

1. What is one of the best or worst decisions the trustees have made in the past four years?

2. On scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being not important and 10 being most important): How important is it for Carbondale to own land for a parking lot or parking structure downtown?

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3. What should Carbondale do with the sales tax revenues it’s making on marijuana?

4. Town Center (the subdivision that includes the Thunder River Theatre Company) appears stalled even though trustees approved a zone-district overlay three or four years ago that was supposed to stimulate development there. What, if anything, should the trustees do to stimulate or encourage development at Town Center?

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Stacey Bernot

1.  Continuing to pursue safety improvements to Highway 133 has been one of the best decisions in the past four years. The town has been able to obtain highly sought after resources to enhance this important thoroughfare. The board was able to create successful partnerships with CDOT, Garfield County and our community to see that this crucial project gets completed. We have worked collaboratively with all interested parties throughout numerous public meetings to insure that Carbondale gets a safer highway while improving connectivity along the corridor in a welcoming manner.

2.  Considering all the needs and desires of our community I would rank this issue as a 6.  Increased public parking downtown is a long-term need. There are a variety of ways we can improve parking for our businesses and visitors such as improving our public right-of-ways. Additionally the board has, and will continue to pursue obtaining land for a permanent solution. The town is aware of the need for permanent public parking, but we will need to make sure we have the financial resources to make it happen.

3.  We should utilize up to 50 percent of the revenues from retail marijuana sales to fund programs that focus on overall wellness of our youth. There’s a need in our community for increased support of clinicians and programs that provide access to comprehensive health care, as seen by the recent request from Roaring Fork High School to fund an onsite clinician. This funding source could allow programs to get seed money to support the needs of this important segment of our community. Supporting the overall health of our youth and families is an investment in our future that will only enhance our community.

4. There are several commercial properties throughout town that are undeveloped or are prime for redevelopment. The town has, and will continue to work with all property owners on projects that comply with zoning. We will continue to work within our vision for the town in hopes projects will increase our vitality and enhance our quality of life. There are a number of factors that influence a project’s viability and our community has worked to clarify our expectations so that property owners and developers have a better understanding of our vision for the future.

Katrina Byars

1.  The bag ban (editor’s note: at City Market) showed strong environmental leadership and overall I think our community is in thriving condition thanks to the countless decisions our current board has considered, and I’m grateful for their service.  

2. Carbondale needs parking off of Main Street that allows easy access to local businesses on and around Main Street. With careful planning the parking available now can be increased through creative design. Primary commercial real estate should not be converted to parking, but parking must be a part of all future development plans. Parking spaces should have the dual function with solar panel shade structures. Parking is not an emergency, but something we can plan for wisely in the future — 5 on this scale of importance.  

3.  This marijuana tax can bring many benefits to our community. Education, including early childhood education, after school programs, restorative justice programs and mental health services can be supported with this funding. We are lacking many human services in our community including a mental health clinic, a detox, low-income counseling services, outpatient mental health programs, after care programs, and teen prevention and support services. Carbondale has needed all of these things for a long time, and marijuana tax is a great opportunity to make a community healthier as a whole.  

4.  When approaching a monumental project like permanent infrastructure in the downtown core it is important to be wise, to think long range, and to work with property owners and developers to infill this space with the kind of high quality development that will best serve the community. I think we will have a lot of development proposals to consider in this area in the near future and I hope to see strong mixed-use development with local businesses like the Carbondale Food Coop in mind. It is also vital that we integrate high quality affordable housing, intelligent parking and green open spaces into our plans to keep the heart of our town vibrant. The town should invest in downtown property whenever possible.

Alexander (AJ) Hobbs

1.  Some of the best decisions the trustees have made in the past four years include keeping the “big box” developments out of Carbondale, investing in the solar arrays at the nature park and being open to the medical and recreational marijuana market.

2. It rates a 5. What is most important is making access to downtown convenient. I personally think a more pedestrian-friendly downtown should be considered. Bike parking, horse stalls and streets that are designated for pedestrian traffic would enhance the vibrancy, energy and charm of downtown. To accommodate this the town can invest in parking in the outer limits and upgrade the RFTA shuttle route to be more extensive.

3.  It should go towards something logical and beneficial for the future of the town. I am an avid supporter of investing in sustainability. Some sustainable investments could be farm subsidies for the local and organic farmers in the area to allow better and more affordable access to quality food, appliance and utility upgrades for residents to decrease water and energy use, and investing in more renewable energy sources.

4.  First I must ask: Why is it stalled and who owns it? I think it is more important that the space is properly utilized for the benefit of the community rather than be developed just to be developed. It is a nice piece of property that could greatly enhance the town. Some possibilities for that space could be an outdoor amphitheater for music and performance or a town marketplace where local goods can be traded and sold. I think the trustees should incentivize a development that meets the community’s goals.

Wayne Horak

1.  I’m a positive person and I’d prefer to discuss a good decision. One of the best decisions made by the trustees was to put the Village at Crystal River (VCR) on the ballot after they couldn’t come to an agreement with the developer to go forward without the PIF. The trustee’s decision gave Carbondale’s residents a chance to voice their opinion on the project.

2.  Eight (8). The vibrancy of downtown depends upon people visiting its merchants and restaurants. While those of us who live in Carbondale are well aware of how great it is to walk or ride a bike, we also host many visitors from the valley, the Front Range and beyond. We need a common area downtown – a gathering place that is our own that can accommodate people and the various methods of transportation. The current gathering place at Fourth and Main Street is not ours. We need to control our own destiny by owning a gathering place (this gets a 10 from me) and the parking area (an 8) that will sustain the great activities that we have come to love.

3.  Each of us can speak to our dreams and hopeful ideas for keeping Carbondale at the forefront, but the thing we must do first and foremost is pay our bills, which allows us to support our various organizations and activities. It’s entirely up to us to raise the revenue necessary to sustain ourselves and the groups, organizations and activities that we have come to love. I’m PRACTICAL and that’s the very reason why I should be elected to the board of trustees. Increased sales tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, or from any source, needs to be applied to a prioritized list of uses that include putting a few dollars back into the savings account. Let’s try to purchase the plaza at Fourth and Main so that it is ours forever. Let’s increase bike access and pedestrian access, put some money in an “opportunity loan fund” to help finance small, sustainable businesses wanting to relocate to Carbondale, or put some money into the re-purposing of the old library building. Let’s invest in us again. Call me PRACTICAL by addressing our most immediate challenges as quickly and thoroughly as possible while keeping our sights set on all the great things we can be. Practical is increasing the town’s sales tax revenue by helping its merchants survive then hopefully thrive. Practical is doing these things in a manner that retains our funky charm and renowned uniqueness keeping us the envy of the valley and a really grand place to live. PRACTICAL is really important to Carbondale right now!

4.  I’m not sure that it is the job of a trustee to encourage development on any particular piece of property in town.

Frosty Merriott

1. I think the best decision the town trustee’s made in last four years was to approve the Crystal River Marketplace with a referral to the Carbondale citizen’s for an up or down vote. The town was threatened with a lawsuit by the developer if we did not approve this project. This decision hedged our bet against a lawsuit while putting the decision in the hands of the voters where it should have been. It was soundly rejected by over 2-1 totally negating the chance of a successful lawsuit.  This project was just too big for the town to swallow just to get a new grocery store. The PIF (public improvement fee) would have swallowed up a good bit of the increased sales tax from the development to pay for developer required infrastructure, the approval of a fast food restaurant would probably have put Dos (Gringos) or (the Red Rock) Diner out of business and we did not need the residential that was required as part of this project.

2. I would say the need for land for downtown parking would be an 8+ and should be a priority. We also need some land for open space and some additional space for events like Mountain Fair would be a real plus as well.

3.  The sales tax from marijuana should first be designated to cover additional costs incurred to make sure our policies and regulations (as well as the state’s) are implemented fairly and in a timely manner. This means money to the town for administration and some to ensure adequate enforcement. After that I think additional realistic education to keep both alcohol and marijuana out of the hands of our young people would be appropriate. After that a conversation on funding towards an additional SRO (School Resource Officer) would make good sense.

4.  My understanding of the Town Center property is that this is mostly under the control of a citizen of Carbondale who has tentative plans drawn up. Part of this plan could be a boutique hotel and restaurant. I don’t think there is anything we can do to hurry this along but we should be ready to facilitate the plan when it comes forward.

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