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P&Z looks at library rezoning application Sept. 12

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P&Z looks at library rezoning application Sept. 12

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By Will Grandbois

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Sopris Sun Correspondent

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The Carbondale Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is considering the rezoning of the old Gordon Cooper Library property at Fourth and Garfield from Residential Low Density (R/LD) to Historic Commercial Core (HCC), in order to accommodate the Surls Center for Visual Art.

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The P&Z will hold a public hearing on the rezoning application at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 at town hall, at which point P&Z can either recommend approval or denial, or continue the public hearing to a later date.

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The rezoning application is the current step in the establishment of an art center that will showcase the works of James Surls, a prominent sculptor who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1997 and now lives on Missouri Heights, as well as other local, regional and nationally known artists.

According to architect John Baker, the name was changed from “James Surls Museum” to “Surls Center for Visual Art” to reflect intended community involvement, including what the proposal calls “a gathering space for performing arts and a center for art education.”

The Carbondale Board of Trustees considered a total of three lease applications for the old library building earlier in the year and voted to begin lease negotiations with the Surls group. A lease has not yet been signed.

Proponents of the Surls Center have said they believe it will become a major tourist draw for Carbondale.

According to town manager Jay Harrington, there is no plan to use public money for the structure itself, although he said the town might be involved in upkeep of the grounds.

The property is currently bordered by the HCC zone district on the north and east, which allows for nearly 100 percent lot coverage (aka “lot line to lot line”) and up to three stories in height.

The Surls proposal calls for a two-story (35-foot) addition to the north and east of the existing building, as well as a single story expansion on the west. This would leave 30 feet of open space for a “sculpture park” on the south side of the building and a 12.5-foot setback from the residential property on the east.

The proposal also includes a variance that would allow for the six off-street parking spaces typically required by the town of Carbondale to be accommodated by head-in parking on Garfield Avenue to the south. That town right-of-way is landscaped and occasionally used by the public for parallel parking. There are also several on-street parking spaces on Fourth Street in front of the building, as well as a privately owned vacant lot across the street that the town leases for use as a parking lot.

Property owners within 300 feet of the old library have been notified of next Thursday’s public hearing, and home and business owners in the area have already attended a presentation about the new building by architect John Baker and other involved parties.

The Sept. 12 public hearing will provide a chance for community feedback before the P&Z makes its recommendation, and the trustees make their decision.

A packet with the application and associated diagrams is available at town hall during regular business hours, as well as the Sopris Sun’s website:

Garfield County built the former Gordon Cooper Library building on town-owned property in the mid-1980s and leased the property from the town for a nominal annual sum. Under an agreement between the town and Garfield County, the building would revert to the town should the library ever move, which it did to a new building at Third and Sopris earlier this summer.

Next steps:

The Carbondale P&Z holds a public hearing on a rezoning application for the old Gordon Cooper Library building at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12. The application is available at town hall or at

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