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Drive throughs for banks only, trustees decide

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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Drive-through windows are to be permitted for banks and pharmacies, but not for any other businesses, following a decision by the Carbondale Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

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The decision was driven, in part, by the fact that an application has been submitted to the town by the First Bank company, which hopes to build a new bank with a drive through somewhere in town.

Town planner John Leybourne, speaking to the trustees on Tuesday, said a proposed change in the Unified Development Code (UDC) that would permit the drive-throughs is “really more of a housekeeping issue,” in that it would restore development rights that were in effect in the town’s old codes before the UDC was passed last year.The amendment to the UDC was proposed by the planning staff and endorsed by the planning and zoning commission.

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The town already has recently approved a drive-through service for the pharmacy at the new City Market store that is being processed through the development review process now.

As part of that approval, according to town staff, the trustees required that signs be posted informing motorists of the town’s recently-approved change that reduces the allowable idling time for stationary vehicles from 10 minutes to two minutes.

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The new anti-idling law, passed late last year, also slashed the fine for violating the regulation from its previous high of $100 for the first offense, to basically the same fee as comes with a parking ticket — $25 (with a $2 surcharge).

Some of the trustees reviewing the drive-through proposal on Tuesday seemed somewhat skeptical, notably Trustee Ben Bohmfalk.

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“If we were starting from scratch, I wouldn’t allow drive-throughs anywhere,” Bohmfalk said during the discussion, adding that drive-through services seem more urban in nature than something needed in Carbondale.

But the discussion on Tuesday dealt more with getting the language of the code amendment than with any doubts about the need for drive-throughs in town.

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As for idling cars waiting for window service, Town Manager Jay Harrington said the signs, and possibly some kind of hand-out that could be offered by a bank teller or pharmacy worker to motorists in line, is seen as the best way of helping motorists abide by the idling ordinance.

“I think the goal would be more educational,” Harrington said, as opposed to posting police at the drive-through to be sure people do not violate the law.

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Recalling the trustees’ earlier consideration of the idling law, Harrington said it included consideration for the pharmacy workers themselves.

“Part of the discussion was, we’d rather keep the sick people outside, in their cars,” rather than having sick customers wandering through the store or the bank, possibly passing along their colds or other illness.

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Drug team

At the same meeting, the trustees agreed to continue the Carbondale Police Department’s membership in the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT, which is a multi-jurisdictional enforcement group that assists local, small-town police with drug enforcement work at a cost of roughly $100,000 per year to the town.

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Although the trustees agreed that membership in TRIDENT has been of some use in fighting drug use in Carbondale, there also was some concern expressed about the way TRIDENT puts out reports to its member departments about drug enforcement activities.

Trustee Frosty Merriott, for example, pressed Police Chief Gene Schilling about the nature of the information provided by TRIDENT to justify Carbondale’s continued involvement, noting that its reports tend to be “misleading” because they seem written in a way that inflates the successes of the anti-drug activities.

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Merriott, and others on the board, indicated they were concerned that the money might be better spent elsewhere.

“Would we be better served with another school resource officer with that money?” Merriott asked rhetorically.

Schilling and his chief assistant, Lt. Chris Wurtsmith, countered that Carbondale does get significant benefit from its TRIDENT membership, not the least being the ability to do drug enforcement work at a level that is beyond the capabilities of a small police force.

Trustee Katrina Byars, who missed most of the meeting but arrived at 8 p.m. in time to take part in the TRIDENT discussion, agreed with others that drug addiction is more of a mental health issue than a law enforcement one, and said she object in some ways to TRIDENT’s tactics.

But, she continued, a more important issue is the safety of Carbondale’s police officers, which she felt is increased if TRIDENT is involved.

“There are very serious criminals in our community, we are impacted by Mexican drug cartels,” she maintained, adding that many young people in Carbondale have used drugs. Citing a lack of mental-health treatment facilities in this area, she said, she feels constrained to support the efforts of police and TRIDENT.

The other trustees essentially agreed, though there was a call for more information in future discussions of the issue.

Mayor Dan Richardson also lamented the lack of mental-health treatment and counseling facilities that might more effectively deal with the drug question, and showed skepticism about TRIDENT’s value to Carbondale.

Given the lack of counseling options, he asked, is the assumption that TRIDENT and its enforcement work is “the biggest bang for the buck? I’m not completely there yet.”

In other action the trustees:

• Approved a request from the advisory Environmental Board to spend $1,120 on advertising in The Sopris Sun educating readers about the town’s new idling ordinance;

• Agreed to hire Lowenthal Consulting for a second year of administrative consulting and management of the town’s revolving loan fund for new business enterprises;

• Formalized a land swap between the town and local ranchers Paul and Celia Nieslanik, involving a parcel at the western end of the Hillcrest Cemetery on White Hill, owned by the Nieslaniks, which is being traded for a parcel adjacent to the Delaney Dog Park and to the Nieslanik’s mini-storage compound at the end of North 2nd Street. The trade is meant to provide land for additional cemetery plots at Hillcrest, which had reached its capacity.

Published in The Sopris Sun on January 12, 2017.