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Carbondale report: Housing crunch fought on several fronts

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All trustees were in attendance at the regular meeting on March 8.

During trustee comments, Lani Kitching gave an update on Crystal River restoration work at Riverfront Park. Based on the limited window for working in-stream with minimal disruption to aquatic species, the project is forecasted to begin in August and conclude in October. The goal is to improve riparian habitat and river access near River Valley Ranch.

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Kitching also announced that the free COVID testing program as we know it is “drawing to a close, slated for the end of April.” The site has operated in the Town Hall parking lot for 18 months.

Mayor Dan Richardson gave kudos to Finance Director Renee Gustine for making the town’s 2022 budget book easily accessible at www.bit.ly/Cdalebudget2022

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Next, trustees unanimously approved a round of liquor licenses for: Tiny Pine Bistro, located at The Beat’s former space at 968 Main Street; Downtown Liquors on Main, replacing Mary’s Main Street Spirits at 389 Main Street; a fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited at The Orchard on April 9; and the return of 5Point Film Festival on the weekend of April 21.

Continuing on down the agenda, trustees approved two contracts for maintaining public roads using the “chip and seal” technique. “A wise use of funding,” said Richardson, “to minimize tax payer investment and keep our streets functioning.”

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After a short break, trustees returned to the topic of regulating short-term rentals (STRs), defined as lodging rented for less than 30 consecutive days. This initial phase, presented as an ordinance, is meant to provide data for the current inventory of STRs, while allowing for ongoing discussion toward more comprehensive regulations.

The ordinance will not interrupt existing STRs currently in operation, but limit the creation of additional STRs. By July 31, a license will be required to operate an STR. To obtain one, the applicant must be a “natural person,” not a corporation, with an ownership interest in the property being rented. License numbers must be listed in all advertising and a contact person must also be available to respond to issues within 60 minutes.

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Until subsequent regulations are approved, new licenses will only be issued to properties that are the applicant’s primary residence, or on the same property, or located within the Historic Commercial Core (HCC) zone district. All licenses will expire on Dec. 31, 2023, unless the town adopts new regulations that allow for a renewal or extension.

“Thank you,” said trustee Ben Bohmfalk. “We’ve come so far. This does reflect our conversation very well.” One adjustment that Bohmfalk suggested was to double the fee per bedroom, from $75 to $150, for non-owner-occupied rentals. The change was agreed upon.

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Kevin Rayes with Community First Carbondale contested that instead of only increasing fees, non-owner-occupied STRs should be assessed as commercial units, taxed at 29% currently compared to residential units at 7%.

“Because this is a preliminary regulation,” offered Town Manager Lauren Gister, “we’re going to find out additional details.” She emphasized tolerance for unintended consequences while the town works toward more comprehensive solutions.

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“Thank you to everyone that’s put a lot of time and energy into it,” said Mayor Richardson following a unanimous vote to adopt the ordinance.

The meeting concluded with Carbondale joining the municipalities of Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Aspen, as well as Pitkin County, in a regional housing coalition. Eagle County Housing and Development Authority and Garfield County Housing Authority are also invited to be partners.

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Trustee Heather Henry presented the proposal as “the cusp of some really significant changes,” giving thanks to the late Bill Lamont, who spearheaded the effort with Dave Myler beginning in 2018. Although initially dreamed up as a special district with taxing authority, the coalition is first taking a nonprofit approach. To sign on, Carbondale made a one-time contribution of $10,000 from designated affordable housing funds toward the nonprofit’s creation.

After a COVID-induced hiatus, following completion of the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study in 2019, the coalition will make use of a “Resiliency and Recovery Roadmap” planning grant to prepare for obtaining a share of $450 million in housing funds to be made available by the Colorado legislators thanks to House Bill 1329, passed in 2021.

“Thank you for the four-to-five years of work you put into this,” stated trustee Marty Silverstein. “Somewhere Bill Lamont is smiling. A dream doesn’t become reality without a lot of work.”

In other news…

At their Feb. 24 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to one more community outreach event for the Comprehensive Plan Update. The additional open house, with Spanish interpretation, is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be no presentation, just conversation.

Tags: #Carbondale #Carbondale Police Department #Carbondale Trustees #Community First Carbondale #short-term rentals
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