Big-box back on back burner | AspenTimes.com

Big-box back on back burner

John Colson

Aspen, CO ColoradoCARBONDALE Carbondale residents eager to learn more about the possibility of a Home Depot coming to town will have to wait a little longer than they expected.The man who wants to develop the Crystal River Marketplace site at the western edge of town, Richard Schierburg, will bring Home Depot representatives to a meeting with the town’s board of trustees Feb. 13, a month later than originally scheduled.Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker said this week that Schierburg asked for more time to prepare for the meeting, which was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 13. Baker said he did not know the reason for the postponement.”They aren’t going to be ready,” Baker said Wednesday. He added that he believes Schierburg still plans to introduce representatives from the home improvements retailer as well as ideas from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Snowmass-based think tank that may be working with the developer on making the Marketplace as energy-efficient and as “green” as possible in a nod to Carbondale’s community values.A Rocky Mountain Institute spokesman said Thursday that the institute has not yet heard whether it will be working on the project, although a proposal has been submitted and discussions with Schierburg and Home Depot have taken place.Baker said he expects the trustees will make time for public comment at the Feb. 13 meeting, although it will not be a formal public hearing.Ultimately, Baker said, the decision will be up to Mayor Michael Hassig, who declined to allow public comment at a meeting earlier this year, citing time constraints. The move disappointed a room full of citizens who had been hoping to speak their minds on the proposed development.”I can’t imagine that we’re not going to have public comment,” Baker said. “It just seems to me that this is an opportunity to get questions answered.” The mayor was out of town for the week and not available for comment.The development proposal is the latest incarnation of a mall development idea that began in 1999 when California developer Brian Huster bought 22 acres from Colorado Rocky Mountain School. (The site, a meadow along the western side of Colorado Highway 133 near its intersection with Main Street, since has expanded to 24 acres.)The town government rejected Huster’s first plans to build a shopping mall at the site. After a contentious 2003 election battle, voters turned back a subsequent plan that centered around Huster’s hopes to bring a “big-box” retailer to town (which the town government approved).Schierburg, who has overseen development projects in other parts of Colorado, is poised to buy the site from Huster if the town approves Schierburg’s development plans. Schierburg took part in a year-long planning process that involved a number of citizens and town officials, known as the Economic Road Map Group, which yielded a preference that no store in the Marketplace be larger than 60,000 square feet. But the group’s recommendations did not call for a town ordinance that specifically outlines such a cap on building sizes.Town officials have recently indicated they may be willing to consider inclusion of a “big-box” store, in the wake of Schierburg’s contention that he has surveyed potential “junior anchor” chain stores but found none interested in locating in Carbondale.Baker said he had not yet received Schierburg’s list of the 61 junior anchor corporations he says he contacted, a list that the town formally requested earlier in December.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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