Carbondale mulls big-box option
The Carbondale board of trustees is considering whether a “big-box” retail store should be a development option for the troubled Crystal River Marketplace project.The possibility comes in spite of the fact that Carbondale voters in 2003 overwhelmingly rejected a development proposal for the same property, largely because of the big-box component of the proposal.The town’s Economic Road Map Group worked for more than a year with the town’s consultants and Marketplace developers for months to come up with a plan for the property. The planning options the citizens group developed also specifically omitted the idea of a big box.But recently, the current Marketplace developer, Rich Schierburg, has found some on the board of trustees who agree with his demand for additional development options, including a “big-box” store.Members of the Economic Road Map Group are worried that a big-box store once again may embroil the town in a political brawl similar to the 2003 fight.Schierburg, manager of the Denver-based Peregrine Group Development LLC, has said his company is poised to buy the Marketplace site from its owner, Brian Huster, and take over the development.Before the 2003 vote, the Marketplace plans called for 252,000 square feet of commercial space, anchored by a 125,000-square-foot site for a big-box retailer. This was the second proposal from Huster, who bought the 22-acre property on Highway 133 from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 1999. The town also rejected his first development proposal.In the wake of the 2003 vote, the Road Map Group review process, which lasted more than a year, yielded two development options, unveiled last summer, for the property.Option 1, the “preferred” development option in the Economic Road Map Group recommendations, includes a 60,000-square-foot grocery store anchor with a potential for a larger store with special review; three junior anchor stores totaling about 75,000 square feet; and auxiliary commercial creating about 170,000 total square feet of commercial space. Option 1 also includes about 88 townhomes and condominiums.Schierburg, however, has maintained that junior anchor stores like Office Max or the Gap haven’t shown an interest in moving to Carbondale, especially with the coming Phase 2 of the new Glenwood Meadows shopping center and construction of commercial space at Willits in Basalt. If Schierburg is unable to attract the junior anchor stores, he said, he needs the assurance of the town, through a memorandum of understanding, that he will be able to pursue Option 2.Option 2 also includes a 60,000-square-foot grocery store anchor with about 30,000 square feet of other commercial space, totaling about 90,000 square feet of commercial development. But it increases the number of residential units to 168.At a meeting with the town this summer, Schierburg heard from at least one trustee, John Foulkrod, that the town should look into the possibility of an Option 3, which would include a large-format anchor of about 100,000 square feet replacing the junior anchors in Option 1. It is that third option that is now being debated.”I think the third option was not really the intention of the Roadmap Group,” said group leader Ro Mead. “There are several members of the Roadmap Group who are unhappy that the third option was included.”She said the group has not met officially in months, “but we will soon,” and that some of its members are planning to attend the board of trustees meetings where the Marketplace is under discussion.The political group that spearheaded the 2003 campaign to reject the Marketplace plan, the Town Mothers, has disbanded, although its former members remain active in town affairs.The trustees are scheduled to take the matter up Nov. 14 to decide if an Option 3 should be formally added to the negotiations.Mayor Michael Hassig showed his own frustration and uncertainty about how to proceed when he said, “I’m not doctrinaire on one side or the other” of the debate. But he expressed deep doubts about Option 2, out of concern that residential developments cost the town in terms of money resources but provide no sales tax revenues to offset those costs.”In Carbondale right now, it’s a lot easier to sell residential than commercial,” he said, and he fears the Option 2 “fallback position” might lean too far toward the residential side of the equation.”I am unwilling to consider what has been predominantly a commercial piece … to become primarily residential” unless he can be convinced it is “good for the welfare of the community,” he said.”I think there are things that we need to sort out here,” Hassig concluded.Gina Guarascio of the Valley Journal contributed to this report. John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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