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Marketplace is shopping for new jurisdiction

A developer who tried unsuccessfully last summer to convince Carbondale residents to approve a mall is doing a little shopping of a different sort this holiday season.

California developer Brian Huster filed a petition in Garfield County District Court Monday to get his 24 acres of land taken out of the town of Carbondale and into unincorporated Garfield County.

The move, if successful, could be an effort to shop for a different jurisdiction to approve his mall.



The legal action, formally called a Petition for Disconnection, comes five months after Huster’s vision for the property was soundly defeated by Carbondale voters.

The Crystal River Marketplace proposal was approved by the Town Council but rejected by a 57 to 43 percent margin by voters in July. The project would have added 252,000 square feet of commercial space to town, including a 125,000-square-foot site for a big-box retailer.




Critics claimed the project was too big and out of character for Carbondale. They urged Huster to take a more cooperative stance with residents and work out a compromise for his property.

Two development firms connected to Huster own four parcels scattered along Highway 133 right in the heart of Carbondale. Huster’s petition said it is appropriate to bring the land back into unincorporated Garfield County because the parcels “are susceptible to being farmed, have been farmed in the past and are not in use for other purposes at [this] time.”

Tax records show the land is assessed as residential and commercial property.

The petition also states that for a period of six years after the possible “disconnection,” the parcels wouldn’t be subdivided into smaller lots than Carbondale typically allows nor would the land be used for commercial or industrial purposes if the adjacent land within Carbondale prohibits those uses.

Those conditions are requirements for disconnection under state statutes.

However, those conditions don’t mean Huster couldn’t apply with Garfield County for the mall. Much of the adjacent land in the town already has commercial uses ” such as the 7-Eleven and the ACE Hardware store. Therefore, applying for the mall wouldn’t run contrary to uses of adjacent property.

An outspoken opponent of the Crystal River Marketplace suspects Huster is simply shopping for a different jurisdiction to approve his project.

“I think it’s pretty obvious they’re just trying to get around Carbondale’s regulations,” said Laurie Loeb, an organizer of the Carbondale Town Mothers, a citizen group that opposed the development proposal.

“It sounds like they’re getting pretty desperate,” Loeb added.

She noted that since the July election, the Carbondale Town Council has strengthened regulations to give it more review powers over projects even when they conform to zoning and master plan preferences.

Town government officials said they weren’t sure what to make of Huster’s petition.

“I don’t understand the legal implications,” said Mayor Michael Hassig. “I honestly don’t know what they’re hoping to accomplish.”

Carbondale Town Attorney Bob Emerson told the Town Council last night that the town will presumably get the opportunity to take a position on the petition. He suggested that the board should give him direction on a strategy in a future executive session.

Hassig said there have been rumors that Huster would take some type of action by the end of the year. He said he was told that representatives of the developer met after the July election with Garfield County planners to explore options.

Hassig said Carbondale and Garfield County have a “clear understanding” that development that is contiguous with the town would have to be considered appropriate by town officials.

The developer is asking a judge to hold a hearing on the Petition for Disconnection within the next 40 to 60 days.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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