The election’s over, but the issue is not |

The election’s over, but the issue is not

Voters in Carbondale this week put a stake in the heart of the Crystal River Marketplace, a decision we applaud as a wise one for the town’s long-term interest.

However, nobody should be deceived into thinking the debate is finished. Through a spokesman, developer Brian Huster has already signaled his intent to come back with a new proposal. The land is zoned for commercial development, after all, and it was only because of a desire to subdivide the parcel that Huster was forced to go to the Town Council in the first place.

The land will be developed. We hope, at least, that Huster or whoever succeeds him as owner will consult with Carbondale residents, including Marketplace opponents, before pursuing a new plan. A bit more advance consultation on the defeated proposal might have averted a nasty and expensive election battle.

While urging Huster to consult Carbondale residents, we must also encourage everyone in Carbondale – government officials, the Town Mothers, and anybody else – to carefully consider what kind of development they can support, and to forward those thoughts to the development team.

Simply rejecting oversized, out-of-character developments is not enough; Carbondale now has an obligation to decide what it does want to see on Huster’s site.

There also remains the central problem for which the Marketplace claimed to be a solution: the town budget. Carbondale has approved major residential projects in recent years, but has not approved the commercial development to keep pace. The main argument in support of the Marketplace was that it would generate sales taxes to pay for the services of an expanding town.

Carbondale found itself in the dubious position of placing its fiscal hopes on a huge development by a businessman who was, well, less than forthcoming about his history and credentials.

Whatever happens with Huster and his 25-acre site, we suggest Carbondale take a thorough look at its budget, with an eye toward cutting expenses and/or creating new revenue streams. Sales taxes are, by definition, extremely vulnerable to economic fluctuation, and may not be the right revenue source for a town obviously ambivalent about new commercial development.

With the increase in residential development, the town might explore a modest property tax hike to help pay for essential services.

The election may be over, but after a well-deserved breather it will be time for Huster and Carbondale’s residents to roll up their sleeves – together.

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