2023 is set to be a historic year of progress for the town of Carbondale, as multiple major projects that have been years in the making come to fruition. Our Board of Trustees and staff plan to stay focused on getting these projects done this year. Naturally, unforeseen issues will arise, and we’ll attend to those that can’t wait. My goal in this column is to share the town of Carbondale’s 2023 priorities with you so you can get involved, be aware, and understand that we may have to say “not this year” to some new ideas that arise.
Staffing: Town Manager Lauren Gister just celebrated her one-year anniversary with the town, and she has done an incredible job filling open positions with outstanding candidates in a tough labor market. Town staff have maintained high levels of service while onboarding new hires and covering for open positions. In 2023, we plan to hire and onboard a building official, planner, and town clerk. These transitions require patience and understanding from the community as we strive to meet residents’ expectations while orienting new hires.
Affordable Housing: The Town Center project will start to take shape this year, through a series of increasingly detailed meetings and decisions led by our development partner, Artspace. While we won’t break ground in 2023, we will have a clear plan for funding, design, and development of approximately 40+ affordable housing units and community-oriented commercial space on the town-owned vacant lots surrounding Thunder River Theatre.
In addition, staff will be busy enforcing our short-term rental regulations and collecting STR excise taxes for the first time, with the revenue dedicated to housing. We’re also working on a grant for a buy-down program to keep more existing housing affordable, forever. Each of these initiatives is a first for Carbondale, and requires significant time for staff, the board, and the public to advance our housing goals.
Mobility: WeCycle, the valley’s free bike-share program, is finally coming to Carbondale! Soon, 75 e-bikes and 75 pedal bikes will be available on docks throughout town, making it easier to get to a RFTA bus or around town without a car. We’re just waiting for the equipment to arrive, with a goal to have the system running by the end of summer. We will also study the feasibility of an on-demand transit system like the “Basalt Connect” vans, or an expanded circulator route, for potential implementation in 2024. In addition, we will be busy creating a Mobility Master Plan, completing the sidewalks and traffic calming measures on 8th Street, improving the pedestrian crossing at Cowen Drive and 133, and designing a new roundabout at Highway 133 at Industry Way.
Parks and Recreation: 2023 will be the year we say goodbye to our old pool and break ground on a new one in the same location, with enhancements for energy efficiency, separation of lap lanes from recreation, ADA accessibility, and more. The final design will be determined in coming months, followed by a construction timeline.
Our Parks and Rec Department will also be busy managing the Crystal River Restoration Project, which will enhance public access, fish habitat, and riparian habitat along almost a mile of the river starting at Crystal Bridge Drive in RVR. Later this year, we hope to get public input on a master plan for Chacos Park, envisioning the future of this community gathering space at 4th and Main.
Sustainability: Our Building Department has started enforcing our new energy code, requiring more renewables and greater efficiency for new buildings as our first stair step on our path to net-zero for new construction by 2030. Once we hire a building official, we will adopt the latest International Energy Conservation Code, moving us even closer to that goal.
Our utilities department will be busy installing a micro-hydroelectric project on the Nettle Creek water line, generating a base load of clean energy 24/7/365 for years to come. Every project in the categories above also has a focus on sustainability, from the multi-modal mobility projects that make it easier to get around without a car, to our commitment to the highest efficiency possible on the pool and Town Center projects, with a goal of net-zero. We will also work with our partners at CLEER, Garfield Clean Energy, and the Carbondale Environmental Board to advance the goals in our Climate Action Plan.
We’re also planning to launch our first Latino Advisory Board, continue to enhance communications, and maintain our routine services that residents rely on. While this is not an exhaustive list of everything on our radar this year, I hope it helps you see how we’re making progress toward long-standing community goals with tangible projects and results. 2023 is set to be a big year for little Carbondale. Please check carbondalegov.org to get involved and work with us to get things done.