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Impasse averted in Thompson Park affordable housing debate

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With only four of seven members present at the latest of Town Council meeting, the Thompson Park development needed unanimous support to move forward — and their initial proposal wasn’t getting it.

With nine years and thousands of dollars already invested, the developer was pushing hard for a significant exemption from the Town’s affordable housing requirements under the Unified Development Code. Although the total number of such units (eight) were deemed adequate, the distribution of price points proved a sticking point.

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“What we want to do is have units in the entire project that are attainable,” explained attorney Jacques Machol. “The percentages on this are extremely tight.”

As such, he advocated for two units at 100 percent Area Median Income (AMI), three at 120 percent and three at 150 percent. But while Mayor Dan Richardson was willing to back down on having at least one 80 percent AMI unit, he wanted as many 100 percent units as the Town could get.

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“There’s a large portion of our population where 120 percent of AMI is not attainable,” he observed. “This is our only tool to provide deed restricted housing for that group.”

Trustee Luis Yllanes agreed.

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“It seems to me like what staff is recommending would be to your favor,” he said. “I want to come out of this knowing that we’ve done the best that we can for the residents of Carbondale.”

Richardson challenged the Thompson Park crew to “up the ante.” They did, first by offering a higher Real Estate Transfer Assessment (RETA), but that didn’t cut it.

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“It’s not my favorite. I’d rather have the extra unit — that’s another family,” noted Trustee Marty Silverstein, who proposed continuing the conversation until more information was available and a full board was assembled. Richardson wasn’t backing down, though.

“You guys subtracted something as part of the design process that is just part of our code,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we provide as many 100 percent AMIs as we can.”

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Ultimately, they settled on three units at 100 percent AMI, two at 120 percent and three at 150 percent with a 1 percent RETA. Richardson, Yllanes, Silverstein and Lani Kitching then supported a motion to direct staff to draft the changes for final site plan, permit and agreement approval.

In other action…

  • The board connected with Mandy Ivanov of Eagle County Public Health via speakerphone to discuss the practical aspects of the Town’s plan to increase the tobacco and vaping age to 21. “What we’re really finding is for it to be effective there needs to be ramifications in place for when retailers violate that law,” Ivanov noted. Potential problems include auditing, online sales, and licensing. Still, the board felt the effort would be worth it. “I see vaping in particular, but smoking as well, as a significant threat to our youth,” Richardson said. “If they start that, it could lead to bad things.”
  • Trustees decided to move ahead with the design and implementation of a hydroelectric system on the water supply line on South Nettle Creek. The proposal would require no new diversions, would pay for itself long before the end of its expected lifespan and provide enough energy to run the adjacent water treatment plant and then some. The only concern raised by Utilities Director Mark O’Meara was that the added stress might increase the chances of a failure in the line — but he characterized it as unlikely. “We’re taking advantage of energy that’s essentially being wasted right now,” Richardson said. “To me this is an absolute no brainer and a total win.”
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