In the current draft update, the “Opportunity Area,” previously referred to as “Downtown North,” is reimagined to accommodate new trails and residential units while maintaining light industrial uses. Courtesy graphic

Comparing feedback from Spanish and English engagement meetings, Carbondale Planning Director Janet Buck was amused to find among the common sentiments, “Don’t make Carbondale too pretty!” That input is just a small sample of thousands of comments received over the course of seven months toward a draft Comprehensive Plan Update, now available for public review.

In January 2021, the Carbondale Board of Town Trustees agreed to update the 2013 Comprehensive Plan. By June 2021, architecture and engineering design firm Cushing Terrell was contracted to lead the process. 

Cushing Terrell was guided to focus on six long-range planning topics: Downtown Character, Downtown North (now called Opportunity Area), Climate Action, Aging in Community, Multi-modal Mobility and Residential Character. The process began with a survey, receiving more than 500 responses, and was amplified with stakeholder group meetings, design charrettes and bilingual in-person and virtual town hall meetings. 

“These ideas didn’t come from Cushing Terrell,” said Buck about the draft, “they came from feedback from the community.”

The purpose of a comp plan

Municipalities in Colorado are required by the state to have a comprehensive plan (comp plan) which “provides the policy framework for regulatory tools like zoning, subdivision, regulations, annexations and other policies,” explains the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

“A comp plan lays out certain criteria,” informed Buck, “providing things above and beyond what’s in the code.” Although a comp plan offers a framework, it is not a regulatory document.

As a supplement to the 2013 comp plan, this draft update re-establishes the town’s goals and elaborates a new list of implementation strategies within the goal topics mentioned above.

For example, the prominent theme of “sustainable development” from 2013 is expanded to intersect with social equity, defined in the draft as “a state achieved when all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to attain their full potential” as determined by “social, economic, geographic, political and built environment conditions.”

Following the presumed adoption of an update, the town’s planning department will next be addressing the Unified Development Code to incorporate changes and implementation strategies. This process, Buck estimates, will likely take another year and also involve opportunity for public input, though not as robust.

Weigh in

A new survey and relevant materials are online at

Additionally, “reading rooms” have been established at nine locations throughout town. Here, a physical copy of the draft update can be perused.

Find a reading room at: Town Hall, the Carbondale Library, the Third Street Center, the Launchpad, the Roaring Fork High School library, Craft Coffeehouse, the Carbondale Rec Center, the RVR Ranch House and Bonfire Coffee.

Acknowledging that copies have already “grown legs” and allegedly walked off, Buck requests that anyone wishing to have a take-home paper copy contact the Planning Department with that request at 970-510-1208.

The survey closes on Feb. 25. Following that, the appointed Planning Commission may recommend adoption of the document with a public hearing. Then, the Board of Town Trustees will vote on final approval, also with a public hearing.

“Google Translate just doesn’t hack it…”

Throughout this process, the town has made an extra effort to receive feedback from Spanish-speaking members of Carbondale’s community.

Although it was not initially planned to translate the full document into Spanish, Buck considered it imperative to follow up on the outreach meeting held in August. “That was an amazing meeting,” reflected Buck. “Participants said they appreciated being included and wanted to remain involved.”

The decision was made in January 2022 to translate the survey and thus take extra time to translate the entire comp plan update. Buck opted to hire a translator able to interpret some of the more technical language, “because Google Translate just doesn’t hack it,” she said. Those items will also be online and at reading room locations once they are completed.