Opinion by Frosty Merriott

For two decades and through two public referendums, many of us in Carbondale — think Town Mothers or simply citizen activists — struggled and labored, marched and met to have development along Highway 133 done right. We wanted just the right development, anchored by a Kroger’s City Market. This was not only because of the town’s dependence on sales tax revenue, but also something that would maintain, at all costs and in all caps, SMALL TOWN CHARACTER.

This is because “small town character” is mentioned eight times in our current Comprehensive Plan summary. It’s why we all live here. And, oops, it looks like we might have failed.

The previous trustee board that I served on held out admirably to get it just right. That is, until Kroger aka City Market met with the Garfield County Commissioners. Their clear intent was to strike a bargain to place their new “flagship mountain community store” at the Cattle Creek turnoff from Highway 82.

This is halfway to Glenwood Springs and in unincorporated Garfield County (i.e. no zoning), a new massive residential development sprawling across the valley floor and no sales tax for Carbondale. We all felt pressured to buy into the Kroger rhetoric. It was a hook, line and proverbial sinker. We really felt we had no choice and we cut the best deal that we could. And heck, sales tax revenue is now up 30 percent.

Meanwhile, a gas station glare bomb appeared in the nighttime sky. It looks as much like the rendering we saw as trustees as party lights look like the Milky Way. The promise of City Market’s flagship, environmental mountain community grocery store did seem too good to be true. Why? Because it was!

There is an age-old business philosophy that dictates: watch how a business does the small things. Do they pay attention to detail? If they do the little things conscientiously, they will also do the big things right.

An example, City Market still has the lease on its old space with their Denver landlord. They have left all of the lights on for 24 hours a day since moving out a year ago. This flaunts the waste of precious energy and superfluously pollutes our nighttime skies, violating the spirit of our Environmental Bill of Rights and sensible town lighting ordinances. Why? Well, they do it because they can. It’s an inconsequential thing to them.

So, it appears, they are not able to do the little things right.

The grand opening of our “flagship environmental mountain community store” last August resembled one of Denver’s large used car lots on Colfax Avenue. Hundreds of red, white and blue flags flapping in the breeze. This, amidst the sea of wavy heat coming off the fresh black asphalt. Please tell me it was just a bad dream.

Inside, I was shocked and appalled by the thousands of single-use plastic bottles destined for the bellies of our local wildlife, the landfills or our oceans. City Market had committed to be plastic-free in two years. That was almost two years ago. Not gonna happen, can’t do the little things. This store screams corporate greed and promises unkept.

I guess we just wait for the next big shoe to drop. Oh, that’s right, it did last December with Michael Francisco’s arrest. We are eight months in and no one at our small-town community store has joined conversations, let alone sincerely apologized, for their part in this obvious misunderstanding. Why? Because Kroger doesn’t care about anything but squeezing as much profit out of this little mountain town as they can.

I would request that our trustees convene a work session with Kroger executives, including their Sustainability Director, and let’s see what was done right, what was done wrong and how we bring this store into compliance with our Environmental Bill of Rights and Climate Action Plan. We don’t really need or want a Willits 2.0 in Carbondale, do we?