Carbondale seeks to integrate climate action objectives into the update of the global plan

People walk past the fenced lot in downtown Carbondale at 6th Street and Main Street.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Climate goals are becoming a key element in the process of updating the 2013 City of Carbondale Global Plan, as the city aims to align its land use and growth management goals with its climate action plan. 2017.

This element of the larger compensation plan update takes center stage this week when the city and local non-profit organization Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) host a public contribution session for a side-by-side look at the climate action goals for land use planning and building construction.

The session takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 23 in the Community Hall of the Third Street Center. Participants can also participate online by registering at

A recent survey of city residents conducted as part of the compensation plan update process identified climate protection as one of the main issues, along with general concerns for growth and development.

Keith Walzak and other members of the Cushing Terrell consulting team who are facilitating the compensation plan update presented a progress report to Carbondale’s board of directors on August 24.

“The plan update will serve as a complement to the existing 2013 global plan, but is not intended as a complete rewrite of the current plan,” Walzak said.

Key elements of updating the eight-year-old land use planning guide include reassessing the city’s vision and goals, reviewing current growth projections and housing needs, and assessment of areas of the city that are not yet built or could be redeveloped.

In the process, city residents take a close look at the mobility of pedestrians and vehicles in the city and keep things youth-friendly while considering the needs of an aging population.

But a central part of all of this is ensuring that land use planning is aligned with city planning for climate change; primarily, ensuring energy efficiency in new construction and finding other ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to meeting with groups like the Carbondale Age Friendly Community Committee, the Bike-Pedestrian Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission, the project team also had talks with CLEER and the Environment Council appointed by the City Council. , said Walzak.

The 2013 plan was ahead of its time to address ecology in the context of economic and community goals, he said.

But the city’s 2017 climate and energy action plan took several steps forward, outlining an ambitious set of targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. and become a zero net community by 2050.

Among them:

  • Improve energy efficiency in all types of new construction;
  • Accelerate the use of renewable energy sources;
  • “Decarbonize” transportation by encouraging walking, cycling and transit options;
  • Encourage waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse;
  • Support local food production and purchases.

However, when it comes to aligning these goals with some of the land developments that have taken place in recent years in Carbondale, the town is failing to do so, said longtime resident Patrick Hunter, a council member. environmental impact of the city.

“A lot of what we felt on the electronic board about some of the developments that happened was that it was ignoring those climate goals,” Hunter said of the projects. commercial and mixed-use, primarily along the city’s Colorado. Corridor of highway 133.

Unless there is a responsibility for these goals to be achieved with a new development, that will not happen, he said.

“It’s going to take some steps that might be unpopular to get there,” Hunter said.

Some of these are as simple as making sure buildings are located in a way that maximizes passive solar energy, thus reducing building energy costs in winter, he said.

Other measures are admittedly becoming more costly, such as requiring solar panels on the roof, pre-wiring buildings for possible electric heating instead of natural gas as major utilities begin to meet their renewable energy targets in the region. power generation, and offer more plug-ins for Electric Vehicles.

“Automakers are moving away from the internal combustion engine, and we have to be ready for it,” Hunter said.

Leading development

Other key aspects of the compensation plan update relate to satisfying desires for affordable housing, creating a mix of housing types, and maximizing developable plots within Carbondale.

In a series of open houses and in the online and paper surveys that were conducted – generating more than 560 responses – several themes emerged, Cushing Terrell consultant Nora Bland said during the report on the 24th. August.

These include ways to create more accessible housing for the local workforce, preserving the small town funky character of Carbondale, slowing the pace of growth, reducing traffic congestion and by protecting open spaces.

In general, residents also say they want to support local businesses and not try to attract national chain stores, celebrate the city’s diversity, improve parking in the city center, expand transit services. in the city, discourage second home ownership and short-term rentals, limit density development and address water supply issues, Bland said.

The main geographic focus is on the so-called North Downtown area across the Rio Grande Trail from City Hall to Fourth Street and Merrill Avenue.

The area is zoned for light industry, a throwback to the days when the old railway site owned and provided ancillary services to coal mines in the Mid-Continent until the early 1990s.

It was proposed to be redeveloped in the late 2000s to a mix of several hundred single and multi-family residential units, retail and a hotel. The plan was withdrawn after the 2008 recession, and the area remains a mix of auto service shops, light manufacturing and storage.

Growth projections suggest Carbondale is expected to add about 1,200 new residents by 2030, requiring the construction of about 450 new residential units, consultant Dave Dixon advised.

More than 382 units are currently under construction or approved for development, so the city is not far from meeting that need, he said.

This additional residential growth can be accommodated within existing city limits, Dixon said, but that means plots like Downtown North and a few underdeveloped parts of Old Town are crucial in this discussion.

“The need for diversity in housing has been reinforced by community members throughout the planning process to date,” he said. “Finding the right housing / job balance is important if the city is to move forward with a long-term and financially viable approach over the next 10 to 20 years. “

Another point that came up during the public input process this summer was the fear that the design rules for the city’s historic commercial district (downtown) would be “broken,” Dixon said.

This served to prevent commercial development on several undeveloped downtown plots north of Main Street, even though commercial and mixed-use development has occurred along Route 133, he said. .

“The city center has not seen recent development activity as expected, which suggests that you may want to look at standards and some code changes to encourage development,” he said.

Latin awareness

In addition to an open house to gather public comments regarding the update to the compensation plan, a meeting dedicated to the Spanish speaking community was held on August 16.

The session was a first for Carbondale regarding land use planning, recognizing that approximately 40% of the city’s population is Hispanic.

Another Spanish-speaking virtual public meeting is scheduled for October 19, followed by another general session on October 21, which will also be held virtually.

“Carbondale’s challenge is to do more to involve the Latino community,” said Alex Sanchez, executive director of Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a group that seeks to give voice to the region’s Latino people in local governments and states.

While appreciating Carbondale’s efforts to include this voice, Sanchez also noted that there need to be more options for Latino residents to step in.

“A lot of meetings don’t take place when people are available, and we just don’t get the voice of the people we need to be at the table,” he said.

When it comes to land use and growth issues, the Latin American population has their own concerns, particularly regarding housing and access to housing options for workers who may be undocumented. This was one of the themes covered in the audience contribution process, Bland said.

Sanchez said Carbondale is in a good position to include more Latin American voices on a variety of issues, especially with a new police chief since last fall and a new city manager coming in to replace longtime chief executive Jay Harrington, who left this month to become Routt County Director.

“Often the Latino population is never seen as part of the governance of this city, and that has to change,” Sanchez said.

The city is halfway through the process of updating the compensation plan. Further Steering Committee meetings are scheduled for this month and next year, as well as November, as well as public input meetings.

Adoption of the updated plan is expected in December or January. Follow the process at

Senior Journalist / Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]

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