Carbondale lays out ‘economic roadmap’ | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale lays out ‘economic roadmap’

John Stroud
Carbondale correspondent

Carbondale’s Economic Roadmap Group presented its vision for the town’s economic future at a pair of community meetings Thursday.

About 100 residents gathered at the afternoon and evening sessions at Town Hall to hear the Roadmap Group’s findings and recommendations and offer any additional thoughts.

The 14 recommendations address such things as community design standards, a long-term capital improvements strategy for the town and revenue diversification.

One key recommendation, however, remains somewhat controversial ” regulating the size of new commercial buildings, a provision aimed at limiting “big-box”-style retail developments.

The group proposes a “soft cap” of 60,000 square feet of total floor area, or a 30,000-square-foot building footprint, as a threshold for what the town would prefer. Applications for development larger than that would have to enter a more rigorous special review process, looking at a variety of social, economic and environmental impacts to determine if the development was appropriate.

“This would support development similar to what is already happening in town, while preserving an opportunity for larger format retail for a niche anchor,” according to the group’s findings.

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The recommendations are the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work by the 13-member citizen group. The group was appointed in the aftermath of the contentious Crystal River Marketplace referendum, in which voters struck down a large commercial development on Highway 133 in July 2003. It is charged with coming up with a vision for Carbondale’s economic future.

“We came from all sides of the economic spectrum, with some very diverse views,” group co-chairwoman Vicki Peterson said. “What we discovered was that we were not that far apart.”

The process involved meeting with more than 250 community members in small group sessions last fall.

That also revealed people held fairly common beliefs and desires for the town’s future.

“Community members spoke over and over about Carbondale’s unique strengths: character, diversity, arts, recreation, natural environment, alternative energy, nonprofits,” group member Joani Matranga said. “They want an economic strategy that builds on these strengths.”

In addition to working with hired consultants Economic Planning Systems of Denver and conducting a community survey, the Roadmap Group has met weekly since late last year to hammer out a plan that fits the community’s vision.

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