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Carbondale Report: Trustees discuss 2023 priorities

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Tuesday’s regular meeting was particularly future-oriented, with a robust agenda and the absence of trustees Erica Sparhawk and Luis Yllanes.

During public comment, Joe Enzer, father of two students at the Carbondale Community School, told trustees that school safety had been on his mind since the Uvalde shooting on May 24.

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“Yesterday’s occurrence brought some of this home very, very quickly,” he said in reference to a lockdown on Monday in response to a suspicious individual allegedly carrying a gun and walking in the direction of the school. Officers later determined there was no credible threat to the community or school. All the same, Enzer respectfully asked that trustees consider having more than one school resource officer. “We’re talking about protecting our children, no price can be put on that.”

During Town Manager Lauren Gister’s report, she announced that Renae Gustine’s last day as finance director will be Sept. 2. “I want to take the opportunity to really say thank you,” said Gister. Town Hall offices will be closed to the public on Friday, Aug. 26 while offices are rearranged. Emergency services will remain available and all routine services will be accessible by phone, email or online.

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After an easy approval of a special event liquor license for the Carbondale Clay Center’s fundraiser on Sept. 17, trustees heard requests for development improvement extensions. The first came from developers of a new storage facility along Highway 133 north of the Park and Ride and energy substation. Public improvements, including an art walk and public trail, were to be completed on or before Nov. 10 of this year. Carbondale Storage LLC asked for a six month extension while right-of-way issues are resolved with a neighboring property. Concerns over an asphalt plant closing were also attributed.

Trustees directed staff to draft an amendment extending the public improvements deadline to May 10, 2023. They declined to vote on another request to also extend the project completion deadline by six months based on a lack of information in the meeting packet for an informed decision.

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The second public improvements extension went to Builders First Source, from Sept. 3, 2022 to June 15, 2023. The item was unanimously approved with dismay expressed by Trustee Chris Hassig regarding a lack of landscaping. He predicted “a brutally ugly bike path back there” with no shade.

Next, consultant Bob Schultz returned to discuss details for issuing a request for qualifications for the town to identify one or more partners for developing the Town Center properties donated late last year. Schultz recommended setting a goal to select a partner prior to the December holidays.

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Trustees quickly approved ballot language for a 6% short-term rental tax that voters will have the opportunity to pass this November. “Procurement” was added to the list of what that tax could fund (promotion, regulation, development and protection of local affordable and attainable housing projects and programs), as encouraged by Trustee Colin Laird.

“Procurement” accommodates development neutral strategies, “buy downs,” as mentioned in a memo by Laird looking at affordable housing goals in similar towns and outlining possible strategies for Carbondale to adopt. The memo included excerpts from the 2019 Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study which shows that the most significant housing gap is for families making 60% of the average median income ($70,020 for a family of four in Carbondale in 2022, www.bit.ly/CarbondaleAMI) or less.

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“The market is pushing us toward really big, expensive homes,” said Laird. He suggested setting goals that double Carbondale’s stock of appreciation-capped units, rent-capped units and town-owned units, “just so we have markers we can keep referring back to.” Another strategy mentioned in the memo is helping trailer park residents buy local parks to make them permanently affordable.

“Even at 100% AMI, people can’t find houses, apartments, anything they can afford,” emphasized Trustee Marty Silverstein. He noted, as well as the memo, that the timing is right to pressure the state legislature to allow municipalities to pass real estate transfer taxes. In Aspen — with such a tax grandfathered in before the TABOR Amendment disallowed them — $22 million was generated in 2021 at just 1%.

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Mayor Ben Bohmfalk expressed interest in revisiting the town’s inclusionary housing ordinance to increase the amount of affordable units for larger developments from 20% to 25% or more. “What could the market actually bear?”

Also discussed was creating a directory for people looking for housing options, serving as a common source for information on who to contact since different projects are managed by different groups.

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On the topic of priorities for the 2023 budget, Matt Gworek, chairman of the Bike Pedestrian and Trails Commission, stated, “It’s very difficult to move forward piecemeal” and encouraged trustees to work on a master transportation plan.

Mayor Bohmfalk pointed out that such a notion could mean many different things, and it’s important to get specific on what such a plan would entail.

Laird agreed on making it a priority, “How do we have complete streets? How do people feel safe on our streets?” He asked. “How to get across 133 safely? How does transit interplay?” He suggested a master transportation plan would entail “all the things we left out when we built roads.”

Trustee Lani Kitching preferred the piecemeal approach for now, taking streets one by one, remaining informed and waiting “for the dust to settle” on current development.

Other spending priorities mentioned were the WeCycle bike share program, translation and interpretation services, Town Center planning, adoption of green building codes and the pool replacement.

The meeting ended with an executive session to review the town manager’s performance during her first six months with the town.

Tags: #Carbondale #Carbondale Report #Our Town One Table
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