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Historic house centerpiece of Carbondale annexation proposal

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Even some of the town’s harshest growth critics seem willing to compromise on a proposed 10-acre annexation and zoning for a medium- to high-density residential development, if it could mean preserving an important piece of Carbondale’s past.

“This is an amazing asset,” Laurie Loeb, an outspoken proponent for slower population growth and less-dense development, said of the historic Thompson family house at a public hearing for the Thompson Park annexation Tuesday night.

Dedication of the house, built by homesteader Myron Thompson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to the town for a public museum is a key component of the proposal being put forth by developer Frieda Wallison of Cerise Park, LLC.

The offer, intended to satisfy a big part of the developer’s open space requirement, would include an accompanying carriage house and about an acre of the surrounding grounds.

“Something is going to have to be worked out, because that house is just too precious to lose,” Loeb said.

Still, she said there needs to be some “give and take” when it comes to open space needs and the number of residential units proposed for the so-called “county island” along Highway 133 just north of River Valley Ranch.

The proposal calls for annexing what is now three separate parcels into the town of Carbondale, and zoning it to accommodate between 45 and 85 residential units ranging from single-family houses to apartment buildings containing several units.

The Carbondale Planning and Zoning Commission, on a 5-2 vote in April, recommended denial of the proposal, saying it did not meet the town’s criteria for annexation and citing concerns over density, parking, solar access and open space needs.

“This is only one proposal among many that will greatly increase the density and population of the town,” Loeb noted, referring not only to Thompson Park, but the Overlook Neighborhood and Village at Crystal River proposals, as well as a downtown rezoning proposal that would allow for taller buildings and greater densities.

Each of the proposals is in various stages of review.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees opened its public hearing for the Thompson Park proposal Tuesday night. Wallison and her development team presented their plans, and numerous public comments were taken before the hearing was continued until July 14.

“This house and its future as a museum is a link to our historic past,” Carbondale resident Herb Feinzig said. “Imagine having this house and its contents to serve as a teaching tool for children to see what life was like early in this town’s history.”

LeAnn Thompson of Glenwood Springs was raised in the house from age 6, although the house hasn’t been lived in since the 1960s. The house and its contents have remained and Thompson said that she and her husband, Vern Arbaney, always make a point to visit historic houses whenever they are traveling.

“I can truly say that this is a one of a kind,” she said. “If you take the opportunity to preserve this house, you won’t regret it.”

Wallison has proposed establishing a real estate transfer assessment on the sale of homes in the Thompson Park development to help cover maintenance and repair costs for the town to operate the house and grounds as a museum. The Mount Sopris Historical Society has already agreed to take ownership of the contents of the house.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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