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C’dale, RE-1 resurrect 2007 housing plan

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John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

The Carbondale Board of Trustees and the Roaring Fork School District board agreed this week that work should continue on the eight-year-old plan to build a housing project on what is now a well-used soccer field in between the Third Street Center and the Bridges High School building (formerly Carbondale Middle School).

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Exactly how that is to be accomplished, however, remains something of an open question.

The two boards met Tuesday night in Carbondale to discuss what is called the Community Partnership project, which currently calls for construction of 120 homes and multi-family units, and a three-acre community park on the site, with three internal streets linking the neighborhood to South 3rd Street and Weant Boulevard.

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“I think this is a great testament to community partnerships,” said Mayor Stacey Bernot, “to have all these pieces moving forward. We’re here to see if we can … maybe get this project to the finishing point” for retention of high quality employees by providing affordable housing to employees.

The plan has been in place since approval of the basic premise in 2007.

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The agreements underlying the project were linked to a land swap between the two governmental entities, in which the town got title to the old Carbondale Elementary School (now the Third Street Center) and the district took ownership of a piece of town-owned land adjacent to the new Roaring Fork High School on Highway 133 to the south of town.

As part of the project’s outlines, the district plans to relocate the existing school-bus maintenance facility on South 3rd Street in order to use the facility site for housing.

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Assistant Superintendent Shannon Pelland told the trustees that a site in the El Jebel area currently is under consideration for a new, midvalley bus barn that would take on the functions now served by the Carbondale maintenance yard.

The plan also calls for the district to provide a replacement soccer field for public use somewhere in town.

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One potential conflict between the two boards is how the housing should be divided up among various types of buyers.

Under the plan as it is now, up to 20 percent of the housing would be sold at free-market prices, and the remaining 80 percent would be split up according to a “priority” ranking, among teachers (at least 25 percent) and at least two Carbondale police officers; individuals or families connected to “financial partners” that assist in the project; town staff; and Carbondale residents or employees of businesses “in the employment area designated by the housing guidelines,” in that order.

Trustee Allyn Harvey said he was concerned that the fourth group of potential buyers would never be tapped, and that the result would be a project too densely populated by teachers. A teacher-housing project in the Woody Creek area near Aspen, he said, is now “a very strange place to live (because) it’s all teachers.”

In the end, the two boards concluded that the first order of business is for the district staff to get to work on applications to extend two looming deadlines — Jan. 31, 2015, to file the final plat for Phase I of the project, and April 20, 2015 for setting vested rights for the project.

The district also plans a survey of its employees to determine the need for affordable housing among the teachers and other employees.

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