Thompson Park plan advances in Carbondale
December 16, 2009
CARBONDALE – Several development plan revisions and a verbal agreement by the Mount Sopris Historical Society to become the caretaker of the historic Thompson house proved to be enough to win approval for the Thompson Park development Tuesday night.
Carbondale trustees voted 6-0 to move toward final approval of annexation and zoning for the project, which would include dedication of the 122-year-old Thompson family house for a historic museum.
The matter was continued until Jan. 19 in order to iron out the final details of the revised plan, which will now allow between 72 and 80 residential units to be built on about 10 acres surrounding the historic parcel that contains the house.
Town staff will also meet with the Mount Sopris Historical Society board to work on a plan for the group to take over operation and maintenance of the facility.
The decision, though still preliminary, was a welcome relief for Carbondale resident Lew Ron Thompson, who grew up in the house.
“They accomplished a lot tonight, so it’s a step in the right direction,” he said after the meeting. “I feel better tonight than I did a month ago.”
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Developer Frieda Wallison offered a number of concessions after a Nov. 5 meeting when trustees were reluctant to move the plan forward.
Changes included reducing the number of residential units, consolidating the park area around the historic house site, adding more pedestrian paths and allowing for a possible roundabout at the main entrance to the development along Highway 133 across from Weant Boulevard.
Wallison also offered to increase of the number of affordable housing units targeted for lower-income households.
The historical society would either take ownership of the house, or maintain it under a lease arrangement with the town, as a public amenity.
“The Thompson house is exactly the kind of landmark we need to preserve for future generations,” Jeannie Perry said on behalf of the historical society board. “We believe a cooperative effort is essential to preserving such a valuable asset for our town.”
About two dozen historic preservation advocates held a candlelight vigil outside Carbondale Town Hall before the meeting to show support for saving the house, built by homesteader Myron Thompson in 1887 and added onto by family members into the early 20th century.
“We need to have something that represents the past, and where we came from,” said Dorothea Farris of the West Elk Scenic and Historic Byway Committee, which supported the proposal. “The Thompson house and the land around it represents a lifestyle, and we need to make an effort to preserve it.”
Several town trustees who had initial reservations about the project supported the revised plans.
“This is a better project than what we started out with,” Trustee Stacey Bernot said.
The historical society’s offer would take the burden of ongoing maintenance of the Thompson house out of the town’s hands.
A consultant for the town had estimated it will cost about $23,500 per year, or $456,000 over 20 years, for operation and maintenance expenses. Wallison, however, estimated that cost at around $11,000 annually.
In any case, she is offering $75,000 in initial seed money to make necessary upgrades to the structure and maintain it for a period of time after the transfer takes place.
The contents of the house, which have remained virtually undisturbed since the 1960s, have already been deeded to the historical society.