The Roaring Fork Drawing Club sat in on the municipal meeting, sketching the crowd. Art by Brian Colley

All trustees were present during their regular meeting on Nov. 22. Several actions garnered hearty applause from public attendees. Mayor Ben Bohmfalk called it “a community lovefest” on KDNK the next morning.

To begin, trustees approved a consent agenda including a resolution reversing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of a minor site plan review for LOVA — the new retail marijuana store approved by trustees with variances to go next to the 7-Eleven on West Main; a “use-by-right” within the existing zoning, Bohmfalk explained.

During “trustee comments,” Colin Laird gave a reminder about the town’s next housing-focused work session on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. Lani Kitching gave an update about Crystal River work north of the fish hatchery. While a new headgate is anticipated to be installed by the end of the year, she explained, “in-stream work still poses challenges” with a narrow window for work to not disturb protected wildlife and inflationary costs having doubled what was in the pre-pandemic budget.

Continuing in that vein, trustees heard from the Crystal Wild and Scenic Coalition and members of the public regarding a resolution in support of federal designation for the upper 39 miles of the Crystal River under the Wild and Scenic Act of 1968. As explained by Francie Jacober, speaking as a private citizen and not as a Pitkin County commissioner, the existing 24 transmountain diversions in Colorado displace 182 billion gallons of water every year, or “half a million football fields, one-foot deep;” and it would be naive to assume the Crystal River won’t again be threatened by a major dam or diversion given population growth on the Front Range among other pressures.

Jacober and Lisa Tasker assured that the designation is customizable and will not affect private lands, existing water rights or irrigation. Their formal presentation was followed by seven public comments outpouring support for protecting the integrity of our free-flowing river, a rare treasure.

Bohmfalk said that the town attorney and utilities director had previously concluded that designation above Nettle Creek, the town’s primary source of water, would enhance and not threaten the town’s supply. The trustees unanimously reaffirmed their support, which also occurred in 2014; one step in a process that will involve stakeholders working out details to bring legislation to Congress.

Next on the agenda, trustees approved a securities modification for Carbondale Marketplace, where 33 trees, landscaping within public improvements tied to the development, died within two years. Planning Director Jared Barnes confirmed that problems with irrigation had been resolved and the letter of credit was reduced to $21,450 with a one-year warranty for replacing the trees. FirstBank, meanwhile, had its $910.80 security released with two improvements approved, though there had been a defect in the sewer line that was repaired.

The next big item was unanimous approval of Art Space’s application to partner with the town on developing the Town Center property. Art Space is a national nonprofit that has worked on projects in Loveland, Ridgway and Trinidad.

Contractor Bob Schultz said there was a strong response to the request for qualifications from eight different teams. Art Space was chosen based on their familiarity to the town, experience with mixed-use, live-work spaces, a willingness to develop community partnerships (with Habitat for Humanity, for instance) and because their model offered the most flexibility.

“It’s an emotional night,” said Amy Kimberly, who played a role in bringing Art Space around in 2018 for a $20,000 market study. This approval sets the town up to enter negotiations for a predevelopment agreement and community meetings in January with a commitment of $650,000.

Burt Furmansky, a member of the Carbondale Clay Center’s board, spoke to their outgrowing the facility on East Main and a need for expanded makerspace. “The Carbondale Clay Center is excited and supportive of the decision to go with Art Space,” he said, “and we’re looking forward to the possibility of having a new home in Town Center.”

On behalf of the Thunder River Theatre Company, executive director Sean Jeffries said, “We’re so excited to finally, finally have neighbors.”

Continuing the night’s excitement, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) came before the trustees with a memorandum of understanding for WE-cycle’s services, anticipated to begin in the summer of 2023. The cost to the town will be slightly lower than was presented in June and the service will be larger, including 17 stations as opposed to 15 and a mix of 80 bikes with half being electric. The service will be free, so long as users return a borrowed bike to a dock within 30 minutes.

Finally, trustees took another look at the 2023 budget ahead of final approval on Dec. 13, including increased salaries for town staff to remain competitive with neighboring municipalities.