By Justin Patrick
Special to The Sopris Sun
The Garfield County Planning Commission will consider a developer’s application to amend the county’s comprehensive plan in order to accommodate a vision for a new community of up to 400 small houses in the pasture northwest of the intersection of Catherine Store Road and Highway 82.
Ken Arnold, managing member of Florida and Aspen based GatorCap, submitted an application earlier this year that will be formally considered when the Commission meets Dec. 13. He will likely be met with some push back from neighbors and the Town of Carbondale, who argue that hundreds of new homes will detract from the rustic character of the area and does not jive with the intent of the comprehensive plan.
The 41-acre parcel is currently zoned as “rural,” which requires at least six acres per home. However, even if the parcel were zoned as “residential high density,” the densest scenario for a community currently allowed under the comprehensive plan, only 124 homes could be built there. That number falls short of the 200-400 homes the developer envisions, so before any ground is broken the county must amend the comprehensive plan to make way for what may become an increasingly common response to the demand for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Arnold contends that the potential neighborhood is exactly the kind of development the area needs. Although the project is in the conceptual stage and no price points have been announced, he has indicated that the homes would be modest units between 800 and 1,500 square feet. They would not be “tiny homes,” strictly speaking, all built on foundations and without wheels. “I think the community needs affordable workforce housing,” he said. “This is the ideal location for that. The idea is to create a vibrant outdoor lifestyle community that is in walking distance from a bus line, that people can afford and be able to get to work.”
Arnold believes that whether the valley concentrates development in one location or slowly builds out in established neighborhoods, the net effect of increased population will be felt either way. But there are some significant downsides to building away from the public transportation access found along Highway 82, he said. “If you build several hundred houses up the mountains, you’re going to have all those people that have no other option than to drive their cars.” The parcel near Catherine Store would be located near the Catherine Store RFTA bus stop. Arnold suggested that if the development were pursued, CDOT would likely upgrade that intersection, providing even better access to public transportation. The end goal would be an affordable, environmentally friendly, outdoor-lifestyle compatible community that typical upvalley employees would inhabit.
Not everyone shares Arnold’s enthusiasm for the idea. On Nov. 27, the Town of Carbondale wrote a letter to Garfield’s Planning and Zoning Commissioners expressing dissatisfaction with the application: “Garfield County has expended a significant amount of time and resources in developing and adopting the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Code. The proposed amendment and amendment to the Land Use Map does not seem to align with the sections of the sections of the Garfield County’s Comprehensive Plan… The [Carbondale] Planning Commission would respectfully request that the County deny the application due to non-compliance with the County’s Comprehensive Plan,” it said. Additionally, some neighbors have expressed concerns about the development’s potential to detract from the rural and agricultural look and feel of that section of the valley.
Arnold was quick to address concerns that he was planning to override the existing expectations of current residents. “It’s a collaborative process with the county, staff, and stakeholders to really come up with a project that benefits the community.”
What: Garfield County Planning Commission Meeting
When: Dec. 13 at 6 p.m.
Where: 108 Eighth St.,
More info: tinyurl.com/gatorcapapp