Carbondale nears decision on Village at Crystal River
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – Town trustees have agreed to several key components of the long-debated Village at Crystal River mixed-use project, including a building-height variance and a funding mechanism to pay for both on- and off-site public improvements.
However, a final decision on the project is still not expected until August, when the Town Council will convene again to consider some of the remaining issues associated with the new grocery store and mixed commercial/residential development.
The Village at Crystal River is the successor to the previously proposed Crystal River Marketplace, a big-box development that Carbondale voters shot down seven years ago.
The new plan for the 24-acre site fronting Highway 133, put forward by Rich Schierburg of Denver-based Peregrine Development Group, calls for 125,000 square feet of retail space, including a new 60,000-square-foot grocery store, which the town’s current primary grocer, City Market, has indicated it would like to build.
The Village proposal would also include up to 164 multifamily residential units and 16,000 square feet of office space.
Carbondale trustees, at a continued public hearing on the proposal June 29 and again July 6, worked through a number of the key issues leading up to a final vote on the Village project.
Among them was consensus agreement to allow buildings up to 42 feet tall on the western portion of the project site, where a potential four-story apartment building could be built. The town’s current code limits buildings to 35 feet; however the town recently amended its downtown zone district to allow for 42-foot-tall building to be considered in some instances.
Residential buildings fronting west Main Street at the Village project can be no taller than 35 feet, trustees agreed, and the mix of office and retail buildings facing Highway 133 cannot exceed 32 feet.
At an earlier meeting, the board agreed to accept a 1 percent public improvements fee, essentially an extra sales tax on retail operations, to pay for around $6 million in both on- and off-site improvements, such as streets and sidewalks, as well as two roundabouts on Highway 133.
An additional property tax-funded special improvements district, with a levy of up to 30 mills, could also be imposed to help pay for that work. However, Schierburg said that may not happen for some time.
“I am already going to be at a huge competitive disadvantage in the valley with this project when it comes to selling these commercial spaces and residential units,” he said at the July 6 meeting with the town board. “So the 30 mills, even if it gets added, will be down the road.”
A majority of trustees also agreed to allowing up to 24 planned employee housing units, to be built primarily for grocery store workers, to be included as part of the Village’s community (affordable) housing requirement.
“This is where I think our housing guidelines fall short, because they don’t include rental units,” Trustee John Foulkrod said. “Rental housing is a part of the affordable housing component … and if you have a strong rental market, you’re probably going to have a strong [labor] market.”
Priority for the rental units would be given first to grocery store employees, followed by other workers within the Village development, before being offered to other Carbondale workers.
However, because rents would not be controlled in any way, some trustees questioned whether they should be allowed to be a part of Carbondale’s requirement that 20 percent of new residential development be income- and deed-restricted housing units.
“I’m not sure this can be defined as community housing,” Trustee John Hoffmann said.
The board also agreed on issues related to project phasing, which requires the grocery store to be built early on. A parking plan, landscaping, and a streets, sidewalks and trails plan were also agreed to.
Remaining issues to be discussed in more detail include the developer’s open space plan, which trustees could not come to agreement on, as well as a suggested mandate that 30 percent of energy use by buildings within the project come from renewable sources.
Schierburg said the energy mandate is something he couldn’t commit to, nor could he commit City Market as the likely builder of the grocery store.
“We can certainly do everything we can to make this as energy efficient as possible, but if you mandate it, we won’t be able to do it,” he said.
Some trustees said the 30 percent mark is a good goal, but shouldn’t be mandated. Others disagreed.
“This is something that should have been discussed up front and, honestly, it’s a deal killer for me,” Trustee Frosty Merriott said. “It’s an issue that’s important for me, and the people who elected me.”
Trustees will again address some of the remaining issues at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Aug. 3, but a final vote is not likely until later in the month.
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