By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Nearly a decade and a half after plans first emerged for development of a 24-acre parcel of land on Carbondale’s western edge, the town government has received paperwork meant to start a development review process for a new grocery store and associated businesses on a portion of what once was known as the Crystal River Market Place site.
Last week, according to Town Manager Jay Harrington, the town’s planning department accepted “an introductory application” from King Soopers (locally known as City Market under the corporate banner of the Kroger grocery store chain).
The land in question is located to the north and west of the intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street, and does not include the existing 7-Eleven store at that corner, or the real estate office next to it.
As presented, according to Harrington, the submission is for a complex of businesses, including:
• A 58,000-square-foot grocery store to replace the current City Market, with a drive-through pharmacy;
• A secondary retail space of approximately 7,000 square feet;
• A gas station.
The project site is nearly eight acres in size, and has been reported to involve the sale of that parcel by its current owners to the Kroger chain.
In a summary about the introductory application, Harrington reported, “This is not a formal application at this time. The applicant submitted the material so that town staff and other referral agencies can provide preliminary comment prior to a formal application. The formal application will most likely be submitted in September, with public hearings before the P&Z [planning and zoning commission] and the board [of trustees].”
Assuming the plan moves forward, town staff have indicated that it will require submission of a subdivision plat, a utility plan, a drainage plan and a traffic impact study, along with documents showing how the plan complies with the town’s zoning codes.
In addition, according to reported statements by town planning director Janet Buck, some parts of the proposal would need special-use permits, and the commercial buildings would need to be built according to the town’s International Green Building Code.
The plan is contingent upon an agreement from the current owners to subdivide the larger, 24-acre parcel and to sell the 7.8-acre portion to Kroger/King Soopers.
According to the planning consultant that is shepherding the proposal through the town’s review process, Galloway & Co., the new store is needed because the old one is outdated, inefficient and too small.
Carbondale’s elected leaders have expressed cautious optimism that the current plan will get a better reception from the community than the earlier, much larger development proposals, which were twice voted down by the town’s electorate.
The site, known by its original development name, the Crystal River Marketplace (CRMP), once belonged to the Colorado Rocky Mountain School. But the land was sold to developer Brian Huster of California, who in 2001 proposed a 252,000 square-foot commercial shopping center for the site.
That plan was shot down by voters in 2003, mainly over concerns about “big-box” retailers moving in and irretrievably altering Carbondale’s small town character.
A second attempt at developing a commercial shopping center was submitted in 2006, by new owner Rich Schierburg and his partners at the Pergrine Group, calling for a mixture of housing and a reduced level of commercial development on the site.
That proposal underwent numerous changes over the course of several years, including a name-change to the Village at Crystal River, but ultimately it, too, was rejected by voters in early 2012.
All along, every iteration of the proposed developments contained provisions for a new grocery store, which was presumed to mean a new home for City Market.
The submission of a development proposal by King Soopers, even as an “introductory” matter, seems to put to rest concerns among town officials that City Market might move out of Carbondale entirely and relocate to a new commercial center midway between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, at the development site known as Cattle Creek Crossing.
Published in The Sopris Sun on August 6, 2015.