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Trustees commit to tiered net-zero goals

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Mayor Pro Tem Ben Bohmfalk led the regular meeting on Aug. 10. Other trustees in attendance were Luis Yllanes, Lani Kitching and Marty Silverstein. Mayor Dan Richardson, Heather Henry and Erica Sparhawk were absent.

The consent agenda was approved including accounts payable. A brief discussion ensued regarding the appointment of Brittney Rippy, who lives and works in Glenwood Springs, to the town’s Environmental Board. Given her roots in the area and interest, the appointment was granted acknowledging that town boards have a restricted number of seats for people that live outside of the town limits.

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During public comments, a resident asked trustees to consider adding “child protection initiative” to the Carbondale Age-Friendly Community Initiative’s efforts. Namely, the person wishes to keep Main Street and other public spaces “g-rated” and “free of sexuality.” He alluded to the Pride flags hung by local middle school students as subjecting children to the sexuality of adults.

Next, trustees took a moment to review the town’s communications and public engagement plan with Kathleen Wanatowicz, principal at Project Resource Studio. Wanatowicz shared enthusiasm for the town’s progress with communication strategies, in particular with the launch of carbondalekaleidoscope.org, an online public engagement platform that makes use of software called “Bang the Table.”

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One of the town’s first major engagement events specifically seeking input from the local Spanish-speaking population will be at the Third Street Center on Monday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. The same meeting, which focuses on the Comprehensive Plan update, will be held in English on the following evening (Aug. 17 at 6 p.m.).

Wanatowicz suggested implementing more consistent use of social media and perhaps a better notification system, like the text message alerts sent by surrounding counties and neighboring municipalities. She also recommended that the board consider hiring a dedicated person to carry on communication initiatives once the town’s contract with Project Resource Studios concludes at the end of the calendar year.

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The bulk of Tuesday’s meeting focused on moving forward with meeting the goals of the town’s 2017 Climate Energy and Action Plan (related materials can be found at carbondalekaleidoscope.org). Jeff Dickinson of Biospaces Energy Consulting was joined by Building Official John Plano to present work toward aligning the town’s building codes to match the 2018 International Green Construction Code (IGCC). Although an update to the IGCC was released in 2021, the changes are substantial. Dickinson opted to continue working from 2018 IGCC to “keep the ball rolling.”

Rather than adopting an old code every three years, the recommendation by Biospaces is to take a tiered approach to meeting the ultimate target of fully-electric, net-zero new buildings with no natural gas permitted by 2030. 

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Plano pointed out that several buildings have already gone all-electric within town limits, including the new Red Hill Lofts, Carbondale Marketplace buildings and 1201 Main (which does have the exception of a gas hook-off for the first floor restaurant space). “It’s moving in that direction, even voluntarily,” he said, citing that the first all-electric house in River Valley Ranch is currently being built by an architect.

An incentive for builders to go beyond the code in any given phase of the staircase approach would be that by achieving net-zero status, by eliminating or off-setting energy use emissions, they could opt out of other aspects of the green code. What portions could be skipped and what will remain fundamental is to be determined by staff as a next step. 

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Proposed tiers adopt stricter requirements every three years. Trustees decided that rather than expecting future boards to continually adopt the changes, the default will be that the changes happen unless modified for whatever reason.

It was acknowledged that the town itself expects to be building a new pool by 2024. Bohmfalk ventured, “Are we going to be able to meet our own code?” Net-zero pools in mountain communities are a challenge to achieve. If the new code can’t be met, it was decided, the town would face the same penalties as other builders.

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Finally, trustees took time to talk about short term rentals and the possibility of taking more regulatory action. According to Town Manager Jay Harrington, the town entered into an agreement with Airbnb and later VRBO that those companies collect lodging and sales tax for the town. This does not limit the town from investing in additional regulation. The town’s tax-collecting service, MUNIRevs, even has a service that monitors these platforms to tell a municipality what’s being rented within its boundaries.

“I’m in favor of being very aggressive on it,” said Yllanes. “It’s at least one arrow in our quiver that we can use to address this problem,” referring to the housing affordability crunch.

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Silverstein shared a similar sentiment, worrying about people buying properties specifically to use for short term rentals, as opposed to people living in Carbondale at least part-time renting a spare bedroom or their house when they’re away. Silverstein suggested that a residency requirement might do the trick. His concerns focused on solely income producing properties driving up real estate prices.

“I really object to a home being used as a business within the community,” agreed Kitching. “I think that disrupts the flavor of Carbondale in particular.” 

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With the need to hire a new town manager, it was considered doubtful that anything could be done this year. Instead, it was suggested to create a budget item for 2022 to seek expert guidance on the issue. 

At the trustee’s work session next week, they will discuss updating the application for community grant requests, receive a check-in from Mountain Waste about trash hauling, an update about water usage trends and there will be an executive session to talk about a possible land acquisition.

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Planning and Zoning will meet on Thursday, Aug. 19, to check in again with Cushing Terrell about the Comprehensive Plan update process. The committee will also elect a new chair and vice-chair.

All town meetings are streamed live and archived on the town’s YouTube channel.

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Tags: #Ben Bohmfalk #board of trustees #government #Kathleen Wanatowicz #Lani Kitching #Luis Yllanes #Marty Silverstein #Town of Carbondale
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