Is shopping center really the answer?
As we approach the election on the Village at Crystal River, I find myself left with a lot of unanswered questions.
Our neighboring town of Basalt already has a mega grocery store, yet the bulk of last summer’s news articles about Basalt were about the decline of sales tax revenues there. I’m told that the bulk (80 to 85 percent) of sales tax revenues for the town of Basalt have historically come from just two businesses, City Market and Valley Lumber.
I’d imagine sales tax collections at the lumber company are now in severe decline as a result of the economic downturn. I honestly don’t know what the sales tax revenues are at the El Jebel City Market. Since Basalt is in such sad shape (sales tax-wise) despite the fact it already has a “mega” grocery store, I’m having a hard time believing that a mega grocery store in Carbondale will be the sales tax “savior” of our town!
And how have Carbondale’s sales tax figures managed to remain somewhat stable during the economic downturn (compared to Basalt)? I don’t know who our biggest sales tax contributors are in Carbondale, but I imagine our “regular” sized City Market is one of them. How will a new, bigger grocery store at a new location create an “economic miracle” in Carbondale and become a business generator? Are we all going to eat more? Do we really believe that residents of Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs are going to flock to our new and improved City Market for their groceries? Will the new grocery store really be the “thumb in the dike” that keeps our local grocery shoppers local? If so, is it those “formerly leaking” grocery shoppers that will save our town from ruin?
And what about all the vacant retail outlets and homes in Carbondale. The old Circle Super location (next to El Pollo Rico) has been vacant for some time, and it’s easy to visualize the eyesore that the current City Market location will make if it’s abandoned. I haven’t counted the vacant homes and storefronts that already exist in Carbondale. Do we really believe that building hundreds more homes and retail outlets is going to help our town? I don’t think I’ll benefit from the extra exercise I get traversing the additional distance between the bread and milk aisles in a mega store.
I realize the 1 percent PIF (public improvement fee) will not in and of itself create a major financial hardship, but will it really be retired in 12 to 16 years as claimed? Or will it become a new revenue source like so many toll road and toll bridges that pop up around the country? Should public infrastructure projects be funded this way, or are we safer with the typical fixed term municipal bond with a clearly defined retirement date?
I hope the upcoming public forums and debates next week will clear up at least some of these questions.
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