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Carbondale Report: Not-so-comprehensive update gets adopted

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All trustees except Erica Sparhawk were present during the special public hearing on Nov. 15 for adoption of the update to the town’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan.

First, minor items of business were addressed including a consent agenda which renewed White House Pizza’s liquor license, appointed Rick Blauvelt and Brad Tucker to the Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission (congratulations!), Britni Johnson to the Public Arts Commission (congratulations!) and signed on to a memorandum of understanding for the Roaring Fork Valley Wildfire Collaborative. The Carbondale Clay Center also received approval for a special event liquor license for their Cup Auction at the Third Street Center on Dec. 9.

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Trustee Lani Kitching updated the board that while attending a Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality/ Quantity Committee meeting she discovered that Carbondale was already a member and, true to her expertise, found herself a seat representing the town on that board. She assured that it meets quarterly and intersected with her work as vice chair on the board of the Ruedi Water & Power Authority. “Lots of paper water in my future,” she confirmed.

The main event, of course, was adoption of the 2022 update to the 2013 Comprehensive Plan. Trustees determined in January 2021 that key areas of the guiding document should be revisited in light of major changes since 2013, i.e. new codes, studies, action plans, special designations and major developments.

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Under the guidance of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), the firm Cushing Terrell was contracted to update growth trends and demographics, implementation strategies, the Future Land Use Map and six key areas: Downtown, Downtown North, High-density Residential, Climate Action, Aging Within Community and Multi-modal Access.

Community outreach was described by Planning Director Jared Barnes as “robust,” with an initial online survey receiving 524 responses, stakeholder meetings, design charrettes, dedicated Spanish and English public meetings — virtual and in-person — and a draft review opportunity in February 2022.

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As the process proceeded, P&Z faced the inherent contradiction of a partial approach to a comprehensive plan. Therefore, while recommending that the update be adopted, P&Z also recommended a complete rewrite by 2026. P&Z Chair Jay Engstrom explained, “In all our outreach, people started showing concerns regarding areas not a part of this update.” Namely, the Highway 133 corridor where development has been concentrated.

Public in the audience included three people in-person and two online, though not all commented. An interpreter also attended, prepared to translate the meeting.

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Resident Ross Kribbs — who also sent a letter to the trustees, planning commissioners and town staff — pointed out that in the initial survey, which he referred to as “the best, most widely-answered” portion of public engagement, 91% of respondents felt that the pace of residential growth was “too much” (51%) or “adequate” (37%), suggesting distaste for more development. Kribbs felt the process involved “compulsory approval” in some instances, giving options like “two stories,” “three stories,” or “mixed-use” without including “none-of-the-above,” for example.

Kribbs also referred to “sneaky ways of dividing responses … so development rose to the top,” or “gerrymandering a survey.” Regarding Downtown North, “a sort of presumptive name,” he continued, “folks are not looking for high-density. The number one response was a park.”

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Last week, The Sopris Sun reported that Cushing Terrell suggested Downtown North could accommodate up to 340 units. This high estimate was given during an August 2021 mid-process update with trustees. The adopted update specifies medium-density, including buildings of up to three stories, with an emphasis on transitioning from higher density closer to downtown to lighter in fitting with the residential neighborhood to the north.

“Everyone wants affordable housing, not everyone wants more development. There is no way you can do both,” stated Trustee Marty Silverstein. Regarding Downtown North, “that can be worked out when a plan comes before us.” He continued, “I can live with this as a guiding document,” supporting the idea of a rewrite in 2026 with an even more inclusive approach.

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Following a short discussion as to whether it should be indicated what parts of the update came from 2013 and what was rewritten, trustees opted to leave it as is; to let it read as one.

With unanimous approval for adopting the update, the meeting concluded with light applause. P&Z was directed to return with a more specific proposal for initiating a complete rewrite of the document by 2026.

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Tags: #2013 Comprehensive Plan #Carbondale Report #Jared Barnes #Lani Kitching #Marty Silverstein #Planning and Zoning Commission #Ross Kribbs
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