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Trustees swing at curveball, trade horses

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

A last minute change in a housing mitigation plan ruffled some feathers at the Carbondale Board of Trustees meeting on May 9, but didn’t stop things from moving forward.

In the original plan submitted to the trustees and reproduced in the packet, the construction of the remaining 18 units of a 27 unit development in the Kay Planned Unit Development next to the Carbondale Community School on Dolores Way would have included 11 income restricted apartments. That’s more than the required five Area Median Income (AMI) and four Resident Owner Occupied (RO) units for the whole development, which made town staff amenable to a variance on the order of construction.

About halfway through developer Rick Balentine’s presentation to the trustees, however, it came out that the newest plan included fewer RO units than initially planned.

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“Believe me, this is a very tight project,” he explained. “I’m trying to get it done.”

Mayor Dan Richardson wasn’t thrilled with the alteration.

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“Part of this plan is to exceed our code,” he said. “It’s a tough ask at the 11th hour.”

He proposed a compromise with six AMI units with special restrictions to lower income categories and four RO units. While both parties acknowledged that as a reasonable solution, some trustees weren’t quite mollified.

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“What I don’t like is this feeling we have right now of bargaining and horse trading,” trustee Ben Bohmfalk noted. “I don’t think it’s the way the public, fair process should work.”

Trustee Marty Silverstein had similar sentiments, but resolved to push through it.

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“My inclination, while I may not like the process and I don’t like curveballs, is to go ahead with approving this,” he said.

The plan passed 6-0, with Katrina Byars abstaining.

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Another expansion

Trustees vetted a major site plan review for seven townhomes in Crystal Village west of City Market. Designed to be a near mirror image of the Village Lane Townhomes to the south, the development went through a revision process to conform with the new Unified Development Code before coming before the trustees. Other than a few concerns about public space and a potential sequencing of units, the board seemed comfortable with the design. “It appears that P&Z did flesh this out pretty thoroughly,” Richardson said. “Changes will have costs that will be borne by the people buying it, so I want to be very careful about what we ask for.”

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Added Byars, “I always ask myself if I would be happy living in a place that I’m approving, and I think these are really cool, desirable units in a great location.”

The review passed unanimously.

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Can’t be bought

Following a potential sponsorship deal for the Carbondale Public Arts Commission, Silverstein had a question to pose: “What is it that we want, and what do we feel comfortable giving?”

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While they all agreed that there were limits — with at least one veiled reference to Bud Light’s 2014 “Up for Whatever” event in Crested Butte — there was no clear consensus on where to draw the line.

“I am a little protective of turning our public space into advertising space,” Byars said.

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While most of the board seemed similarly leery, Heather Henry sought to remind her fellow trustees that putting a sponsor’s name on a sign or plaque is a common and accepted practice.

“There’s no selling out to it,” she said. “I think it’s an incredible show of pride.”

Town Manager Jay Harrington wasn’t convinced that a uniform policy could cover such a broad array of potential circumstances. In the end, Richardson suggested a simple requirement that all permanent sponsorships go before the board, which the trustees approved.

In other action…

● Roaring Fork High School Principal Drew Adams introduced the board to mental health clinician Andrea Pazdera and urged them to continue funding her position. “The Town has been very generous multiple years to pay for the position,” he said. “It’s a critical piece to make sure that our students are healthy and happy.” The renewal passed unanimously.

● In the process of requesting a special event liquor license for Thunder River Theatre Company’s upcoming gala, Executive Artistic Director Corey Simpson filled in the board on the nonprofit’s expanding range of programs.

● The Town opted to join an already filed lawsuit pertaining to the renewal of oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area.

● Trustees approved a bid for a contractor to remediate the old town landfill, which was decommissioned in the early ‘90s and has since developed some sinkholes in the cap.

Published in The Sopris Sun on May 11, 2017.