Does Carbondale need a boutique hotel downtown? A parking garage? How about an enclosed space for a 3-4 season farmers market?
While many details remain up in the air, Carbondale trustees are narrowing in on some of the fundamentals for how to proceed with the properties donated to the town late last year. The properties once contained Bonanza Trailer Park, home to about 80 people. Residents were evicted in 2002, after the land sold, and it has sat mostly empty ever since.
The trustees’ work session on June 21 summarized input from a public engagement event on the topic on June 3. Town Manager Lauren Gister mentioned that the town also hosted three bilingual pop-ups to gather thoughts from Spanish-speaking residents. Additionally, the town tabled at the rodeo. “We’ve been trying to hit a wide breadth of Carbondale’s demographic,” she assured.
Among the comments, the most persistent request was for affordable housing. “It’s where we started and where we’ll end,” surmised Mayor Ben Bohmfalk. He also noted that this is a rare opportunity to provide 100% deed-restricted housing for Carbondale. Although the town would like for the prospective units to specifically benefit people that work in Carbondale, even setting aside units for town employees, he clarified that there will be challenges to financing such restrictions. “Tax credits don’t allow discrimination,” he said.
The narrowing of direction taken by trustees involved setting aside some requests, including for a boutique hotel and also for low intensity, open space, in order to maximize what can be done for the community with housing and commercial space.
Trustee Erica Sparhawk referenced the 1,000-square-foot commercial units torn down just south of the Town Center properties, where True Nature started and the Dandelion Market was located. “I know from my time helping with the food co-op, it was really hard to find something remotely affordable or small enough,” she said, when the Dandelion Market’s lease was not renewed in 2017.
“Whatever ends up being final, is not going to address all the needs,” stated trustee Luis Yllanes. He cautioned against making the project too affordable, citing Red Hill Lofts as leaving too many middle income people out of the equation.
In Carbondale, calculations for who qualifies for affordable housing are based on the area median income (AMI) in Garfield County (www.bit.ly/CarbondaleAMI) for a four-person household plus $7,500 for each additional person. In 2022, for a family of four, 100% AMI in Carbondale is $116,700. For a single person, 100% is $94,200.
The town’s Unified Development Code requires that any new residential development with five or more dwelling units set aside 20% as deed-restricted, ranging from 80-150% AMI. The 30 units at Red Hill Lofts, a development along Dolores Way, are available to renters earning 50-80% AMI.
Gail Schwartz, president of Habitat for Humanity, together with Jon Fox-Rubin, addressed the trustees on behalf of their organization, and vouched for ownership opportunities over purely rental units. Habitat for Humanity was recently awarded two parcels by the city of Glenwood Springs to build 22 homes; one parcel is high-density and the other, near the airport, will be built more in Habitat’s traditional duplex style.
Fox-Rubin said that, using an off-site technique for a panelized modular product, Habitat is ramping up their capabilities to build more than 20 affordable, net zero units per year.
In summary, “we want to be at the table,” said Schwartz.
By sticking with Town Center’s already approved zoning, the process is simplified. Utilities are already ready to tie into, lotting is done and a pattern is laid out. What remains to be determined is the AMI range, the ratio of ownership units to rentals and the density of units.
If parking is reduced, stated consultant Bob Schultz, 80 residential units could be achieved with commercial on the ground floor. “60 would be more graceful,” he said.
Stating she’s a fan of biking and public transit, Sparhawk acknowledged, “Where we live, people have vehicles to get out and explore, I want to be realistic about where people put those vehicles.”
The conversation will continue, likely in late July during a regular meeting.
Previous to the Town Center conversation, trustees had their annual check-in with the Garfield County Commissioners. To review the meeting in its entirety, visit the town’s YouTube channel: Town of Carbondale. There you will find all town meetings archived.