Carbondale’s Board of Town Trustees returned from the holidays with full attendance and freshened appearances. The meeting fell on trustee Erica Sparhawk’s birthday, which she took in stride despite the absence of cake.
It was another momentous meeting, with progress made on community housing, the aquatic facility, 2023 events and, perhaps most notably, the dedication of Chacos Park in memory of Chris and Terry Chacos.
To begin, trustees approved a robust consent agenda after dolling out Student of the Month awards. In addition to accounts payable, the consent agenda included several liquor license renewals, a retail marijuana store renewal, on-call snow removal agreement, letter of support for the Thompson Divide Administrative Mineral Withdrawal, a resolution affirming that “the primary posting place for notice of meetings shall be … carbondalegov.org;” trustees accepted a construction contract agreement to rebuild the Red Hill porta-potty structure crushed by rockfall (for $4,100), a 20-year lease renewal for displaying information at the Highway 82 rest area and — last but not least — Brian Colley was reappointed to the Public Arts Commission.
Trustee Chris Hassig questioned replacing the porta-potty shed in the same location if it is subject to future damage. With no easy alternative, this and all other items on the consent agenda were unanimously approved.
During trustee comments, Marty Silverstein observed that January’s First Friday was particularly quiet. He questioned whether it’s worth the impact to businesses closing the street during January. He also noted with enthusiasm that the former Mi Casita restaurant will be given new life thanks to experienced Aspen restaurateurs from Mi Chola and The Red Onion.
Lani Kitching delivered the update that, with the statewide closure of community testing sites, the final day for Carbondale’s COVID-19 testing site behind town hall is Jan. 13. Free at-home test kits remain available, find details at covid19.colorado.gov/testing
During public comments for items not on the agenda, Niki Delson stepped forward to highlight the prevalence of swastikas graffitied in local public schools. “This is not an issue that should reside in schools… I believe it’s a community issue,” she said, asking whether the trustees agreed.
“I think this needs to be addressed Valley-wide,” responded Silverstein. “It’s very unsettling.”
“We could at a minimum make a statement as a board,” offered Sparhawk.
The meeting proceeded with unanimous approval for adoption of the Community Housing Plan drafted with input from several dedicated work sessions. The plan establishes a goal of doubling the number of deed-restricted, rental-capped and town-owned units from 144 to 288 by 2032.
Trustee Colin Laird said that codifying with a strong statement that affordable housing is a top priority will help Carbondale to lead in the Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition as state and federal funds are sought. The regional coalition will meet on Jan. 19 to talk about next steps. For now, Laird explained, money put forward and leveraged by each partner in the coalition will directly benefit that partner, instead of funds being pooled.
In the same vein, the trustees approved a predevelopment agreement with Artspace to develop the Town Center properties as affordable housing. This required a commitment of $150,000 from the town, all of which could be reimbursed by a Boettcher Foundation grant anticipated to be available to Carbondale over the course of 2023 and 2024.
The scope of work spans 2.5 years depending on obstacles, Town Manager Lauren Gister informed the trustees. She assured them that in-depth public outreach will occur throughout the process. Gister also specified that Artspace will own and manage the buildings, and that the units will be available to everyone, not only artists.
In response to an article published in The Sopris Sun (“Where once there was a trailer park…” Dec. 22, 2022), Hassig put forward the idea of calling the property “Bonanza” instead of “Town Center.” “Bonanza was a community,” he said. “It’s a fun word, more catchy, and might spark people’s imaginations … and pay homage to what was previously there.”
“There are people who were displaced who still live in town,” Silverstein chimed in. “I would like to know if they would have any priority.”
“These are things to be determined,” said Mayor Ben Bohmfalk. “That and naming will be discussed.”
Next, the trustees heard from Parks and Rec Director Eric Brendlinger on 2023 events. The calendar was unanimously approved, along with a decision to not close Main Street during First Fridays in January and February. One sticking point was the new security requirements requested by Chief Kirk Wilson.
In response to mass shooting tragedies, Wilson requested that events with 500 or more attendees hire private security. While agreeing with the importance of an emergency plan, trustees doubted the efficacy of hired security compared with well-trained volunteers. The additional cost to event organizers, they felt, merited a follow-up meeting with Wilson and organizations with large events, like 5Point, Carbondale Arts and the Wild West Rodeo.
Luis Yllanes, executive director of 5Point, recused himself from voting.
Charlie and Eric, sons of Chris and Terry Chacos, were present for the naming of Chacos Park which followed a process created in 2013. The land in question, at the corner of Fourth and Main, was donated to the town along with Town Center lots at the conclusion of 2021. During a 45-day public comment period, Parks and Rec received six positive responses for the name with no opposition.
Silverstein, who first proposed it, read from a 2015 Sopris Sun article written by John Colson about the 40th anniversary of the Village Smithy, established by Chris and Terry in 1975. “Chris took care of downtown,” he said, tears welling up. “He was passionate about downtown and that’s why I thought this was appropriate.”
Brendlinger explained that a master plan for the park will be established this year, with some money going toward initial safety improvements. He stuck around to provide an update on the new pool. After receiving seven proposals in response to a Request for Qualifications issued in November 2022, Wember, a company with offices in Colorado, was selected as the owner’s representative due to having extensive experience specific to the construction of aquatic facilities.
Finally, the meeting concluded with an executive session “for a conference with the town attorney for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions.”