By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The Carbondale Board of Trustees gave a somewhat tepid response on Tuesday to a proposal to annex about 2.6 acres of ground at the north end of town and make it home to a new mini-storage complex along Highway 133.
But the trustees did not indicate an unwillingness to work with the developer, Dr. Ron Stein and his corporate persona, Huntington L.P., headquartered in Burbank, Calif.
Stein, also owns the Sopris Shopping Center on Highway 133, as well as land between Main Street and Colorado Avenue at Highway 133, which is hopes to develop into a mixed-use project of homes and businesses.
In fact, more than one trustee indicated that the storage-complex proposal, which at this point is called the Stein Heritage Storage Site, might get a better reception if it included a residential component intended to meet the town’s deepening need for affordable housing.
Stein, along with planner Mark Chain of Carbondale and California-based architect Bruce Jordan, indicated they will consider the trustees’ input and come back for another meeting at some future date.
As proposed, the storage complex would be built between an Xcel power substation to the south of the project, and an auto tire store to the north.
It would comprise a perimeter-building one-story tall, built just inside the boundary lines of the property, and another storage building in the center of the property that would be two stories tall, both with brick exteriors and what Jordan described as “lots of glass” to relieve the monotony of the brick facades.
Access to the property would be at the northern end of the parcel, and would be limited to “right-turn in, right-turn out” because of restrictions imposed by the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Access Control Plan for Highway 133.
Stein also has proposed a new length of bicycle / pedestrian trail, connected to the existing and adjacent Rio Grande Trail, that would wind around the western, or back side of the project site and offer a link to walkers or riders headed for the area of Garcia’s restaurant and cafe or the Red Rock Diner.
But several trustees questioned that trail route, suggesting a different trail alignment along the front of the project site, next to the highway.
In his presentation on behalf of the project, Chain described the roughly 79,000 square-foot parcel as having once been part of the Gianinetti ranch that was severed from the larger ranch by the highway when it was built in the 1950s.
Other developers have looked at the property over the years, Chain continued, but opted to leave it alone for a variety of reasons.
Chain asked for the trustees’ concerns, objections and suggestions about the proposal and remarked, “If the ideas are insurmountable, maybe the plug is pulled” and the project will not be pursued.
Stein told The Sopris Sun that he has an option on the land but has not finalized the purchase from its current owner, Mary Ann Hyde and her business identity, 133 Ltd. Partnership. Hyde lived in the Carbondale area for decades until leaving recently to move to Tennessee for family reasons, according to Chain.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Jordan described the project as part of “a new breed of self-storage” involving designs that are intended to fit in “nicely” with surrounding uses and offer a more aesthetically pleasing appearance than was the case in the past.
The single-story perimeter building, Jordan said, will be about 18 feet in height, and will screen loading activities from the view of motorists on the highway or cyclists on the trail.
And Stein is proposing to install landscaping to further screen the storage buildings and, if desired, perhaps even the power substation next door, thereby improving the views from the highway side.
Trustee Ben Bohmfalk expressed strong reservations about the project, criticizing the blockish appearance of the proposed buildings.
He also favored the idea of exploring possible affordable-housing uses on at least part of the property.
But Trustee Marty Silverstein objected to that idea, arguing, “I don’t think this is an optimal site for affordable housing.” He questioned whether anyone would want to live so close to a power substation, due to concerns about electromagnetic energy affecting human health, and was doubtful about the prospect of people living essentially in an industrial part of town.