Marketplace keeps Carbondale busy |

Marketplace keeps Carbondale busy

Gina GuarascioCarbondale correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE The Crystal River Marketplace will dominate the Carbondale trustees’ agenda throughout the month of May. While there is still much work to be done, two different development options for the 24-acre site off Highway 133 have emerged: the flex zone option and The Home Depot option.In a town that seems to be as divided over the Marketplace parcel as the nation is over politics, those two options are becoming symbolic of a much bigger issue. To oversimplify the debate, one could ask: Does the town want big commerce or small-town character?”One can approach this from two different directions,” said Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig. “On one side you can say: ‘We need to maximize revenues – in order to be able to do all the things that people ask of us – and therefore we’ll accept this big box and attempt to mitigate its impacts.'”On the other hand one can say, ‘We think these impacts are unacceptable – and that the character of this community is one of its great strengths – and therefore we’ll live within the revenue constraints that a lower-impact plan would present.'”The trustees are set to discuss the flex zone option at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, at Town Hall. They will discuss The Home Depot option May 8 at the same time. Marketplace developer Rich Schierburg plans to attend both meetings, and Hassig said he expects there will be a chance for public input.As the name suggests, the flex zone would allow for a flexible mix of commercial and residential development. That mix would be determined by several different factors, mainly the market for commercial space.In March, Town Manager Tom Baker wrote in a memo to the trustees that the option that does not include The Home Depot is most likely to garner public support and would be the least contentious. Baker said there is a lot of potential within the flex zone for the town and the developer to get what they want.”There’s a whole menu of things that could happen in the flex zone,” said Baker referring to the possibility of creating several different zone districts on the property. “We could offer incentives for affordable housing or affordable commercial space. If the developer gets something, what does the community get in return? We have to make it attractive for the developer to do what we’re looking for.”Baker said there is a “natural tension” between developers and communities because a developer usually wants to “get in and get out,” while a community is usually looking for a slower pace of development that can be absorbed. “The flex zone allows for a more deliberate pace for build out. The question is, what incentives do we need to give the developer? We’re hoping for some direction from the board,” said Baker.The flex zone may be the least contentious in Baker’s mind. But there are plenty of people in the community who think it will be a detriment to the town to convert any of the commercial space to residential.

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