The Sopris Sun

Trustees, AVLT partner in pursuit of new Red Hill parking

By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

With plenty of help from Aspen Valley Land Trust, Carbondale may end up owning almost 25 acres of land at the base of Red Hill — allowing the construction of a new parking lot and trail getting hikers and bikers off the road.

“With the recent [Sutey-Two Shoes] land exchange, we’re just going to see more use in Red Hill,” said Town Manager Jay Harrington. “There has been increased interest in commercial development of that property.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the Red Hill Council are also closely involved in planning, but it’s AVLT that has already put the land under contract and began raising funds for the project. If things go as planned, a community fundraising campaign would cover the rest of the cost with an endowment for future maintenance.

Talking trash

Although only half an hour was dedicated to the discussion, the issue of trash seemed to draw the biggest crowd from the public. Trustee Ben Bohmfalk urged the board to figure out their priorities between bear proofing, examining the waste stream and diversion options and mitigating neighborhood impacts.

“If we want to address all those, I think it’s a much more comprehensive discussion,” he said. “Past boards have gotten close… and it just didn’t get across the finish line for a variety of reasons.”

Mayor Dan Richardson saw bears as the top priority, and didn’t want to leave anything off the table — even returning to municipal hauling. Trustee Marty Silverstein was also in the bear camp, but didn’t think the Town could do as well as the free market.

Trustees Frosty Merriott and Erica Sparhawk were more concerned about waste diversion, although they agreed that they had made a commitment to tackle bears over the winter.  Trustee  Heather Henry didn’t see them as separate issues.

“How do you possibly just pull one strand?,” she said. “I think we should try and look at as much of it as we possibly can.”

Commentary from Scott Eden and Mike Hinkley of Mountain Waste and Recycling seemed to support the assertion. According to Hinkley, bear-proof containers aren’t compatible with their trucks automated systems and could consequently triple the volume of trucks and personnel required for pick up (a little research yields one company — Kodiak Products — that makes automation friendly cans, but it’s not clear whether that would be a viable option).  Eden noted that the merger of Intermountain and MRI into Mountain Waste had already brought most of Carbondale under a single trash provider with a compost facility in Vail set to round out the company’s offerings.

For her part, Alyssa Reindel of Evergreen Zero Waste urged the Town to put public information at the core of their discussion.

“Towns that are successful with their waste diversion practices have a robust education program,” she said.

Meanwhile, trustees…

• Unanimously endorsed the 1A ballot initiative to levy .45 mills in property tax to support an annual fund for historic projects. “This seems like a small price to pay to preserve our heritage,” said Silverstein.

• Allocated $5,000 for a joint request with the Roaring Fork Transit Authority in pursuit of a matching Great Outdoors Colorado grant for a lighting plan for the Rio Grande Trail through town. In a sea of unanimous votes, the item stood out with Henry and Merriott dissenting. Expressed concerns included cost, light pollution and whether lights would actually increase safety on the corridor. Bohmfalk reminded his fellows, however, that this was just a study — not a commitment to construction.

• Agreed to a final, 150 day extension for Kroger to begin the process of constructing a new City Market off Highway 133 north of the current building. It’s the sixth time the board has done so, but this request came with a firm timeline: closing on the property by Feb. 28 (shortly after the start of Kroger’s fiscal year), site work in late 2018, and vertical construction in early 2019.

“I didn’t think the board would entertain continued extension without something more firm coming together… (but) I feel like the terms of this agreement is really what we’re looking for,” said Mayor Dan Richardson. “We’re not at the point where I’m willing to throw away the investment that all of us have made in this project.”

Developer Briston Peterson assured trustees that Carbondale is a top ranked priority as the project prepares to go before Kroger’s capital funding board in October.

Silverstein was looking forward to being able to report some progress.  “It’s the number one question we get from everyone — whether we’re at the supermarket, gas station or the post office,” he said.

• Conducted a Town Manager evaluation — something of a formality since his contract renews with a standard 3 percent pay increase — in public at his own request. The discussion was heavily colored by Harrington’s recent interest in, then decision not to pursue a job in Vail.

“You don’t always know what you have ‘til you look at something else,” he said.

He expressed an intent to stick around at least until his son finishes high school.

The evaluation ended up being almost universally positive, with Sparkhawk lauding his diplomacy, poise and responsiveness, Silverstein pledging to “cherish our time together” and Richardson putting him “right at the top”. Henry credited him with seeing the town through the recession and putting it on a path to prosperity.

“I hope that you stay to help get us to the momentum of the next horizon at least, because I think it’s going to be pretty fun,” she said.

Harrington was humble in the face of praise.

“I think our organization does a lot with a little, and a lot of that is having great relationships with other folks… we couldn’t do it on our own,” he said.