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Village at Crystal River Advances

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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After more than two years of public review and 35 public meetings, the Village at Crystal River PUD turned a corner at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.

On a 5-0 vote, trustees instructed town staff to draft a document detailing all of the proposed agreements between the town and developer for a mixed-use development on the west side of Highway 133 north of Main Street. With document in hand, trustees will then be able to vote up or down on the proposal for a 24-acre piece of property whose history dates to 1999.

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 “This is a monumental point for this project,” mayor Stacey Bernot said after the vote was taken.

Trustee Frosty Merriott was absent and trustee John Foulkrod has recused himself due to a possible conflict of interest.

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The trustees will discuss the document Oct. 4 and could vote on the project that night, although town planner Janet Buck told them the related discussions might take “a meeting or two.”

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The Village at Crystal River planned unit development (PUD), proposed by Rich Schierburg and the Denver-based Peregrine Group, calls for approximately 125,000 square feet of commercial/retail density, including a 58,000-square-foot grocery store according to the development application; approximately 15,000 square feet of office space; up to 164 residential units; and a parcel of approximately three acres for a school, day care center, hospital, hotel or combination of light manufacturing with a retail component.

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In a 2003 referendum, Carbondale residents overturned a trustees decision and voted down a proposal for a 230,000-square-foot commercial development on the parcel that included a 125,000-square-foot big-box retail store.

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The property’s development history dates to 1999 when its owner, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, sold the vacant land/pasture to California developer Brian Huster. Huster’s original plan called for what amounted to a new town center on the property — including a theatre for the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities that Huster offered to the non-profit group for free — but residents hammered the idea so badly he eventually pulled the project in favor of the one that voters turned down in 2003.

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A partial timeline for the project since 2003 is as follows:

2005 – Schierburg takes input from the Economic Roadmap Group and downsizes the project from its 2003 size;

2006 – An open house is held to take input and discuss concepts for the property;

2007 – Trustees take straw polls on desires for the property;

2008 – The developer withdraws a possible big-box component for the project and introduces a “flex-zone” for central seven acres;

2009 – The planning and zoning commission recommends 5-2 for trustees to approve the project, and it then goes to the trustees.

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In other business from Tuesday night’s meeting, the trustees approved a policy regarding business sandwich board signs pending a formal ordinance. Among the new rules:

• Only one sandwich board per business;

• Sandwich boards must be brought in at night;

• Signs can only be placed on the lot where the business is located; businesses without street frontage must restrict their sign to the nearest right-

of-way.

The trustees also extended the medical marijuana facilities moratorium to July 1, 2012, and approved a liquor license for Bonfire Coffee.

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