By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s planning and zoning commission last month approved the site plan and a minimum lot-size variance for a project to redevelop two parcels along Cooper Place, a dead-end street that stretches northward from Garfield Avenue between Carbondale Car Care and the Garfield Avenue Apartments.
The project calls for replacement of a single-family modular home on the west side of the street adjacent to the dead-end of the street, and for development of what is now a vacant lot on the other, eastern side of the street, where a “trailer” once stood, according to property owner Andy Mishmash.
As approved by the P&Z, the project will result in construction of four buildings — one triplex and one duplex on each parcel of land, for a total of 10 dwelling units, five on each lot, according to documents on file with the town.
Cooper Place is a somewhat disheveled looking block at the western edge of Carbondale’s historic town center, which gained notoriety earlier this year when a man murdered his wife with a machete in an apartment in the neighborhood.
Although the street currently is a dead-end, plat maps from prior years indicate that at one time the street went all the way through from Garfield Avenue to Main Street. Some current online maps of the town still show the street as going all the way through.
The developers, Cooper Rentals LLC and owner Andy Mishmash, who lives on Ten Peaks Mesa Road in the Upper Cattle Creek area, also are planning to build a small park and a “landscaping strip” at the northern end of Cooper Place, where a sagging wooden fence blocks the street from continuing on to Main Street.
Planning Director Janet Buck said the park, along with a sidewalk along the west side of the street, “should make it (the neighborhood) look better.”
Under the new regulations known as the Unified Development Code, which altered some of the town’s land-use approval guidelines, the project is small enough (7,486 square feet per lot) that it does not need to go to the board of trustees for development approval.
Still, Buck said, there are “a few items associated with the application that need to go to the board,” including the relocation of a water main, some improvements to the right-of-way of Cooper Place, and a lease of a “small piece” of publicly owned land at the end of the street to be used for the park.
Because those items must first be reviewed by planning staff once they are submitted, Buck said, the project is not yet scheduled for review by the board of trustees.
Although there are people currently living in the existing structure at 15 Cooper Place, Buck said the land-use application did not contain any mention of the fate of those residents, adding that city regulations have no requirements for “replacement housing” in this kind of circumstance.
The home currently is owned by the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, according to planning consultant Mark Chain, who is piloting the project through the government review process.
According to the minutes from the June 16 P&Z meeting, Buck recommended that the project be denied, because the applicants were asking for a variance from town regulations that require there be a minimum lot size of at least 7,650 square feet for a project of this size.
She told the P&Z that there appears to be no “unique site condition that creates a hardship to the applicant,” which might provide justification for the variance.
Buck also told the commissioners that the project, as proposed, does meet the goals of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which designates Cooper Place as “an infill area appropriate for redevelopment” and for increased density in its housing stock.
Architect Jeff Dickinson, describing the project to the P&Z, said the project comprises one- and two-bedroom apartments with storage and laundry facilities underneath. The northernmost buildings, he said, are three-story, while the southernmost are to be two-story to allow for better solar access for the north units, Dickinson said.
Responding to a question from commission member Marina Skiles, according to the minutes, about the rental rates of the planned apartments, Chain reportedly said a one-bedroom would go for $1,833 a month.
A wide range of questions were directed at Dickinson and Chain, touching on everything from snow storage (it is to be pushed to a spot adjacent to the small park) to parking (town staff indicated it is adequate for the plans) to whether the developer should replace an existing, old fire hydrant (he will be), and many other aspects of the project.
Commissioner Yuani Ruiz and some others on the commission questioned whether the application met the town’s requirements for a variance, but others agreed with the owner that he was meeting a need for rental housing in the area and wondered whether the small variance (164 square feet in total) should hold up a needed project.
And at one point, commission chairman Gavin Brooke added to the conditions of approval for the project, requesting that the project contain two rentals that are priced to be affordable to local workers, along the lines of affordable housing requirements for sale units.
Such a requirement, as part of a housing mitigation plan, said Brooke, would need approval by the board of trustees.
In the end, following a short public hearing at which no members of the public chose to speak, commissioner Michael Durant moved to approve the minimum-lot-size variance, and thus the project itself.
That motion passed, 4-1, with commissioner Yuani Ruiz dissenting.
Published in The Sopris Sun on July 7, 2016.