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Teacher housing motors ahead, City Market is still stalled

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By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Carbondale is projected to soon be home to a new, 16-unit teacher housing project, a new drive-through banking institution and a new downtown bar, following decisions by the Board of Trustees at the April 25 meeting at Town Hall.

The construction of a First Bank branch at the Carbondale Marketplace/City Market site, however, is dependent on final plat approval for the grocery store, which on Tuesday was put off for the fifth time due to a requested extension by the store’s owners and is not due for another vote by the trustees until June 28.

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And the teacher housing project, planned for the recently vacated Roaring Fork School District bus barn lot next door to the Bridges High School on South Third Street, has been trimmed somewhat due to what the district’s land-use consultant, Bob Schultz, described as a lack of funding. As a result, the project will start out with 16 flats and townhomes, rather than all 20 units planned.

Teacher housing

The school district has been working since last year to draw up plans for the housing complex, to be paid for with $5 million included in the $122 million school financing bond approved by voters in 2015. Housing projects also are planned for Basalt and Glenwood Springs.

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Schultz, at a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in Carbondale, and again on Tuesday night, explained that the $5 million budget for the teacher housing project is not enough to build all 20 units.

The remaining four units of the original project plans, he said, will need to wait until more funding becomes available.

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But both Schultz, of Carbondale, and the project architect, jv (sic) DeSousa of Boulder, described a development that is designed to fit in with the surrounding neighborhood and takes into account certain valley-specific needs, such as large storage spaces for the various recreational equipment and toys that local residents accumulate over time.

Schultz also said that the project is ideally located — close to school facilities, the town library and the Third Street Center’s (TSC) nonprofit tenants and programs, right next to the athletic playing field between Bridges and the TSC.

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“It’s just got everything that you would look for in a site,” Schultz remarked, adding that as early as 2004, during a public planning process known as the Economic Roadmap, town residents and officials had earmarked the site as appropriate for high-density residential development.

Schultz also emphasized that, while school district developments such as this one are technically exempt from local regulations, and instead are controlled by the state, the RFSD chose to submit to the town for review and to adhere to Carbondale’s Unified Development Code, a concession that has been welcomed and lauded by town officials.

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The main access to the project will be from South Third Street, with internal parking as well as street parking, and an emergency access drive connected to Weant Boulevard.

DeSousa pointed out that the planning process for the housing project brought together district officials and employees, local architects and energy-efficiency experts and Carbondale representatives, who together planned buildings that are energy efficient, roomy and designed to accommodate solar-power panels at some point — all of which blend in well with Carbondale’s long-term interests.

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In addition, he said, the project calls for saving the mature trees that surround the site, and for preserving the view of Mt. Sopris from the south-facing windows of the nearby Carbondale Branch Library, two provisions that drew warm appreciation from town officials.

Different trustees heaped praise on the designs displayed at Tuesday’s meeting.

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“You’ve taken affordable housing and really translated it to high-quality living,” said Trustee Katrina Byars. “Thank you for bringing such a high-quality project to us.”

The trustees unanimously approved the school district’s application for rezoning (from Open Space/School PUD to Residential/High-Density), site-plan review and a conditional use permit for the multi-family aspect of the project, as is required for all multi-family developments of more than three units, according to Schultz.

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First Bank/City Market

The trustees on Tuesday also gave approval for a final subdivision plat, splitting one parcel into two parts for development of a First Bank branch along Highway 133, adjacent to the planned Carbondale Marketplace/City Market commercial complex, on site that sits across the highway from the Family Dollar store.

But some trustees expressed concern about ongoing delays in the City Market project, which have been requested by the Kroger/King Soopers/City Market corporation that hopes to replace Carbondale’s existing City Market with a larger, more modern store.

Due to murky internal and financial considerations, Kroger has now received five extensions for the filing of a final plat, the last of which came on Tuesday night, and some local observers have begun wondering whether the store every will be built.

Project engineer Yancy Nichol pointed out that First Bank, even after getting approvals from the town, cannot start building until after the final plat for City Market is approved.

And Town Attorney Mark Hamilton said that the approval for the First Bank subdivision might be endangered if City Market’s final plat is not approved and recorded within the next six months.

In response to questions from the trustees, Town Manager Jay Harrington said he has had no indication that the grocery store project is in danger of being abandoned.

“My confidence in this project, after extension after extension, is waning,” commented Trustee Katrina Byars.

And Trustee Marty Silverstein, prior to a vote to approve the extension, noted, “I’m not opposed to it, but I wish they’d get their act together.”

New liquor license downtown

In what appeared to be its most popular act of the evening, the trustees gave unanimous approval for a beer and wine tasting room at 358 Main St., to be operated by H&H Adventures, otherwise known as the Roaring Fork Beer Company.

The business will keep its main brewery and bar, in a commercial complex along Dolores Way, according to owner and manager Alyson Sanguily.

The hearing for the new establishment, which is to open in the former retail home of European Antiques, drew perhaps 40 supporters to crowed into the meeting room at Town Hall on Tuesday, including the owner of the space, Bernard Poncelet, who praised his new tenants as “good people, hard-working people” who will “improve the lifestyle of Carbondale” with their new enterprise.

Mayor Dan Richardson, after agreeing that the new businesses had generated considerable excitement and support, expressed gratitude over the decision of the business to invest in a downtown operation.

After the application for a liquor license was approved unanimously, the room erupted in loud cheering and clapping from supporters.

Published in The Sopris Sun on April 27, 2017.