By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff
Carbondale’s current crop of trustees are able to come to a consensus on most issues, and that proved mostly true despite a packed agenda on Nov. 14 — at least until the end.
1201 Colorado Ave.
The first big item for consideration was a major site plan review for a mixed use development on the northeast side of the roundabout at Highway 133 and Main Street. The currently vacant lot is owned by Stein Properties Limited Partnership, which also runs the Sopris Shopping Center and Self Storage just across Colorado Avenue to the north. With streets on three sides and a marked drop in elevation on one side, it’s a development challenge despite its prime location.
“I’ve always viewed it as the entrance to town,” said Ron Stein, who has hoped to develop the lot for the better part of a decade.
The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the current plan, which includes 2100 square feet of commercial space with 18 residential units on the upper floors — likely for rent rather than sale. It would include sidewalk improvements on both sides with a new pathway between its covered parking area and the existing Crystal River Spas building. Landscaping plans include some private outdoor spaces for residents as well as a public plaza by the commercial entrance.
“It might be a great place for some public art,” noted Landscape Architect Kathy Markle.
The structure is designed to maximize solar exposure and green space for residents, provide easy parking and access for visitors and uses an array of materials and visual elements to break up its scale.
“This is a more contemporary mixed use feel,” Markle said. “It is inherently — not to use that dirty word — urban.”
With most of the business access on the Colorado Avenue side, Trustee Ben Bohmfalk’s main concern was whether it would “appear to be a building with its back turned to Main Street.”
Trustee Heather Henry wasn’t too worried about that.
“I feel like there’s a lot of liveliness facing Main Street,” she said.
Still, she expressed a desire for more open landscaping on that side, and suggested that a single slope roof on the parking structure might be more aesthetically pleasing as well.
Overall, however, the project met with very little opposition from the board or from neighbors. Terry Kirk, who owns the nearby Carbondale Plaza, called it “a much better project than it was,” adding, “we have no problem with it.”
While Bohmfalk still had some concerns about the fenced or landscaped-off section against Main Street, noting that, “There’s a lot of little private parks going up around town with fences around them,” he still voiced approval for the development as a whole.
“I think this is a great sightplan,” he said. “It’s exactly the kind of thing we always hoped people would come forward with.”
The plan passed unanimously.
Of the two pot related items on the agenda, the Laughing Dog Group’s special use permit probably had the most potential for drama. After all, odor concerns at the marijuana infused products led to a long meeting in October and threatened to shut the business down. However, with several provisions added, the board approved the renewal without much comment.
Several alterations to the Town’s overall marijuana regulations went almost as smoothly. Most of the changes were cosmetic, but at least one restriction was enacted while another was lifted. Henceforth, certain logos and symbols will be banned from marijuana signage — which most dispensaries are already in compliance with, Henry observed.
Mayor Dan Richardson pointed out that the Town was one of the earliest and most lenient supporters of medical and recreational cannabis.
“I would struggle with bringing this level of legislation to any other industry,” he acknowledged. “But part of that agreement was that we’re not going to glorify it.”
Meanwhile, the trustees backed Town Clerk Cathy Derby’s proposal to remove the five-business cap on dispensaries — though not manufacturing or grow facilities.
“Since pot has been legalized for retail, we’ve never had five in operation ever,” she said. “People are sitting on them and making a lot of money from it.”.
And while things were a bit more problematic in the medical-only era, circumstances have changed.
“The market took care of itself,” Trustee Marty Silverstein recalled. “As the industry has expanded, people don’t have to drive here from Basalt or from Glenwood.”
The changes passed unanimously.
Unanimity was not, however, in the cards as the board attempted to craft a comment to send to Pitkin County Open Space and Trails on a proposed bike trail through the Crystal River Valley. Both Silverstein and Frosty Merriott balked at the very first sentence of the draft Bohmfalk and Richardson assembled, which expressed strong support for a trail.
“I think no trail should be an option. I think the compromise is along the highway,” Merriott said. He expressed a sense the money could be spent more wisely or saved for a potential disaster.
“I think we’re looking at a whole new dynamic in the next five to 10 years because of climate change.”
Silverstein had a more fatalist outlook, expressing a sense that the path would be built regardless but bemoaning the process.
“If they’re open space and trails, what is wrong with keeping it open space?,” he said.
Henry, too, had some concerns and advocated for considering each section independently.
“It is almost too much to digest,” she said. “There actually may be some segments you just can’t put a trail in… The process they have used up until now is not okay. If we support the trail, they have to change this course.”
Ultimately, the trustees compromised on altering language to make it clear that the majority of the trustees supported some sort of trail, with numerous caveats. They encouraged Pitkin County to minimize impacts on wildlife, include restoration and education, minimize the use of eminent domain and generally improve their public process. Even as the meeting adjourned almost an hour past schedule, several tweaks were expected before the final comment deadline.
In other action, trustees…
• Heard an annual report from Carbondale Chamber President Andrea Stewart, who expressed a desire to better reach out to the Latino community and broke the news that Carbondale will host the Bicycle Tour of Colorado on June 24 and 25, 2018.
• Made a three year commitment to support the school’s mental health program, which was previously renewed annually, following a presentation by Roaring Fork High School Vice Principal Kelsie Goodman. “I only wish we had a service like this at the high school when I was there,” noted Trustee Erica Sparhawk.
• Put off a waste hauling discussion to allow Bohmfalk to attend a regional trash discussion on Nov. 29. “A lot of the issues I think are going to come up for us are being addressed by this group,” he said.