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Backcountry fumes and fuming

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Luther Propst, executive director of the Sonoran Institute, a Tucson-based non-profit, said conservation and good growth management correlate with economic prosperity. He also noted that many communities are struggling to maintain that sense of community even as they look at future growth: the population of the West is expected to grow 50 per cent by 2030.

 

Of big box & small mall

CARBONDALE, Colo. – The Carbondale community continues to debate whether it can abide an 80,000 square-foot Home Depot in its midst. Big national chain grocery stores in 60,000-square-foot boxes seem to be OK.

Town voters have previously rejected an unspecified national-chain big box, fearing the small-town feel that they enjoy would be lost. But the developer, Rich Shierburg, this time is getting counsel from the Rocky Mountain Institute about how to make the project a prototype for low-energy use buildings that could be copied elsewhere. Carbondale is a hotbed for global warming activists.

Any project would include a big, 60,000-square-foot grocery store. Any project would also have a mixed area of smaller retail stores and homes. But Shierburg predicts Home Depot’s presence would yield Carbondale double the tax revenues, $1.2 million, from the project.

Three-quarters of the business for the complex, reports the Valley Journal, is expected to come from the upvalley communities from Carbondale to Aspen.

Meanwhile, town residents also heard from a Washington D.C.-based economist and writer, Michael Shuman, who proposes what he calls a “Small-Mart Revolution.”

Shuman advised the town against banning big boxes, but instead urged that towns figure out how to compete with them with such things as shop-local campaigns and by recruiting creative entrepreneurs.

Small towns benefit from locally owned shops in that more of the money spent locally stays local. With national franchises, much of the money is removed from the community.

Shuman also urged the town consider a tax on services, to move away from depending upon sales tax economies. No such service tax has so far been applied in Colorado, and Carbondale officials are uncertain whether it would be legal.

Meanwhile, Home Depot wants into Carbondale badly enough to up its ante.

“Our budget would allow us to extend a community contribution” to the town for housing or other necessities, said Home Depot representative Jim Spitzer. “I’m not here to say the checkbook is wide open, but we do have some funds available.”