C’dale OKs rezoning for teacher housing | AspenTimes.com

C’dale OKs rezoning for teacher housing

John Stroud
Carbondale correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” Carbondale trustees decided by a strong majority Tuesday night that it’s time to quit stalling and move the process along to work with the Roaring Fork School District to come up with a plan to build affordable teacher housing in town.

Promising that the details of a forth­coming development plan for the 14.5-­acre school campus between Third Street and Weant Boulevard will be given a full and careful public review, the Town Council voted 6-1 to approve a revised rezoning plan for the property.

The board will consider a formal ordi­nance putting the new zoning in place at its Oct. 9 meeting. It also plans to discuss a few more specifics of the teacher hous­ing proposal at that time in an effort to get the development review process started on the right foot.

“If we stall this [zoning request] any­more, we could kill this project,” Trustee Scott Chaplin said.

Added Trustee Alice Laird, “I think the applicant has gone through and addressed the concerns that have been raised at this stage.

“I’m concerned that there are so many obstacles to doing this project, and we need to keep the inertia going,” she said. “There is a risk of it dying if we don’t move it along. I’ve seen it happen in Basalt, where things just don’t move for­ward.”

Laird was referring to another school district attempt to build teacher housing near Basalt High School that met with resistance from town officials, who said the plan ran counter to Basalt’s urban growth boundary goals.

The Carbondale property, by contrast, is right in the middle of town amid estab­lished residential neighborhoods. That might eliminate concerns about urban sprawl, but it has raised concerns among neighbors about the density of the project and the related impacts on the neighbor­hood.

Short of at least some preliminary planning to address those impacts through a Community Impact Assessment, which will be required at the subdivision devel­opment phase, Trustee Ed Cortez said he couldn’t support the zoning change.

“I don’t think we’re ready yet,” Cortez said. “We need to have a professional developer on board to help us in address­ing those impacts. … I think we have enough time to get this thing done right without rushing to approve the zoning.

“The point here isn’t whether it will happen; it will,” he continued, adding that he supports the idea of building affordable housing for teachers and other community members on the school site. “It’s just a matter of taking the time to do it right.”

Bob Schultz, a planning consultant working with the school district to get the project started, said the zoning is an important first step before a developer is brought on board.

“The strategy is to zone the property in order for the district to attract a develop­ment partner experienced in financing and developing affordable housing,” Schultz said in a letter to the town outlining sever­al revisions to the zoning proposal. “The developer would prepare one or more plans based on meeting the various price points targeted for the project while addressing issues raised during the PUD ( planned unit development) review process. The opportunity exists to meet with interested neighbors during this stage.”

The revised zoning plan reduced the number of total parcels on the property from nine to six, and established specific building envelopes between the existing elementary school building and the town­houses along Second Street in an effort to lessen the impact on those residences. It also created more flexible zoning for the area along Third Street, so that it could have fewer residential units per acre than the originally conceived high density zon­ing for that section of the property.

One issue that will likely be discussed at the Oct. 9 meeting is whether Carbon­dale teachers would be given priority for the teacher housing units once the project is developed, or whether it would be open to all district employees on the same pri­ority basis.

Three of four teachers who spoke up at Tuesday’s meeting said they choose to live in Carbondale but teach at schools in Basalt and Glenwood Springs.