Locals for Smarter Growth to fight Carbondale project | AspenTimes.com

Locals for Smarter Growth to fight Carbondale project

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – A group calling itself Locals for Smarter Growth has been formed to lead the charge against development of the Village at Crystal River (VCR) mixed-use project at the western edge of town.

At the same time, according to VCR developer Rich Schierberg of Denver, another group is being put together to support the project. The pro-VCR group has no name yet, and no plan that could be released to the media.

“I don’t think we are in a position yet to tell you everything,” said Schierberg on Wednesday, speaking from his office.

He said a meeting is planned for Friday about the group, which he said will be separate from his company, the Peregrine Group Development.

According to an announcement issued Wednesday by the Locals for Smarter Growth, the opposition group is “committed to helping to convince Carbondale voters to come out against the Village at Crystal River in the upcoming special election.”

The town is holding a special mail-ballot election, with ballots due by Jan. 31, 2012, asking voters to either endorse or reject the town board’s approvals of the VCR development. The deadline to register to vote in the election is Jan. 3, according to the Garfield County Clerk’s office, which is conducting the election.

Carbondale trustees approved the VCR on Nov. 1, and called for an election at the same time. The trustees concluded that residents opposed to the project would hold a petition drive to force the issue onto the ballot anyway.

The VCR proposal is the latest in a string of development plans for a 24-acre site north of Main Street and west of Highway 133.

In its current form, the approval calls for 125,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by a new 58,000-square-foot City Market grocery store at the north end of the property, plus 15,000 square feet of office space and up to 164 residential units.

Other allowed commercial uses include a gas station, bank and fast-food restaurant. Later development phases, depending on market demand, could include a hotel, medical facility, senior care facility, school or light manufacturing.

An organizer of The Locals group, Allyn Harvey, criticized the project as calling for “a massive, Willits-style building at the far edge of the empty field.”

Willits is a mixed-use development in Basalt, where a proposed Whole Foods grocery store was, until recently, stalled by financial difficulties.

“If this was simply about a new supermarket, we wouldn’t be having this election,” said The Locals group member Laurie Guevera Stone, according to the statement. “But this developer wants much more than permission to build a new supermarket.”

In the written statement, her criticism also touched on:

• Plans for a 1 percent “public improvements fee” to be assessed on sales in shops at the VCR complex, including the grocery store.

• Construction of 164 townhomes and condominiums, which she said will “flood our already weak residential real estate market.”

• Creation of a flex zone where the developer “can build anything he wants at some future date.”

The Locals group also is critical of Schierberg’s request for a 12-year vested rights period, meaning he will have that long to get the project built.


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