By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s Main Street will not be closed to vehicular traffic for this year’s Mountain Fair, but it might be in the future, following a discussion of the idea by the town’s board of trustees on Tuesday night.
The idea was raised by Trustee A.J. Hobbs, who wrote in a July 2 letter that he felt Main Street needed to be closed during Mountain Fair weekend for safety reasons.
“I saw too many close calls between pedestrians and cars last year,” Hobbs wrote in his letter, which was addressed to the trustees and town staff. “I feel it is imperative that we close portions of Main Street for all of Mountain Fair.”
The letter suggested the closure should be from Third to Eighth streets, and at Tuesday’s meeting Hobbs explained that vehicular traffic could be re-routed to the streets that parallel Main, primarily to Colorado Avenue.
Hobbs wanted to close the street for this year’s Fair, July 24-26, but his fellow trustees felt there might be too many unknown repercussions to making such a decision so close to the event, without putting the idea through the town’s established system of analysis and public comment.
“I think the fallout of unintended consequences outweighs any sort of benefit we might get,” said Trustee Pam Zentmyer. “I don’t see it being worth it.”
Mayor Stacey Bernot added that doing so on such short notice would be contradictory to the town’s established methods of considering street-closure proposals, and would set a poor precedent for others who might apply for similar closures for special events or other reasons.
Hobbs told the board that he had heard from a number of Main Street business owners who, he said, were not opposed to the idea.
Trustee Frosty Merriott reported that the Chamber of Commerce board of directors offered little in the way of “push-back” when presented with the idea, though he said he, too, worried that “there would be unintended consequences at this late date if we tried to bang this thing through.”
Trustee Katrina Byars said she had heard from some business owners who seemed “more hesitant” about the idea than the ones approached by Hobbs or Merriott.
The board concluded that it would be better to turn the idea over to the town’s Special Events Committee, which annually debates such issues in the fall, with the possibly trying it out next year.
In an unrelated decision, the trustees agreed to contract with an attorney who will serve as Carbondale’s liquor license hearing officer, to deal with occasional violations of municipal or state liquor laws by local liquor stores.
The attorney, Barbara Clifton of Rifle, would be paid $250 per hour for her service, which is predicted to be limited to a few cases a year. She has been serving in the same capacity for the City of Rifle since 2010, according to her resume.
The trustees also discussed creating a liquor-licensing review board, to take over some of the routine matters governing liquor license applications that historically have fallen to the board of trustees.
The idea, according to the discussion Tuesday night, would be to relieve the trustees of these considerations so the board could focus more on policy-making and running the town.
After considerable discussion, the trustees decided to ask Clifton, the new hearing officer, to submit a memo about the underlying issues involved in deciding whether the trustees should delegate their liquor licensing powers to a separate board, or keep doing it the way it has been done in the past.
In other action, the trustees:
• Approved liquor license renewals for the El Horizonte restaurant and Carbondale Beer Works;
• Approved special events liquor permits for Thunder River Theater, for a fundraising event at The Orchard church on Aug. 15, and for Cowboy Up Carbondale, a fund-raising event for the Raising A Reader organization scheduled for Aug. 28 at the Fourth Street Plaza;
• Voted to approve business operations by SP Products (which is linked to the Silver Peak Apothecary cannabis business in Aspen) to make marijuana infused products (MIP) for sale as medical-marijuana and retail-marijuana items. The same group has received permits to run a store at 259 Main Street, the former location of The Center cannabis shops, although the business is not likely to open for another couple of months, according to management.
• Gave preliminary approval for a set of revisions to the town’s municipal codes, not including the land-use codes. The rewrite is meant to streamline the codes and make them more accessible and easy to read, according to a presentation by Town Clerk Cathy Derby, who has been working with the Colorado Code Company consulting firm on the project. The finalized code rewrites are scheduled for a hearing before the trustees on Aug. 11.
Published in The Sopris Sun on July 16, 2015.