Eagle voters will return to the polls May 22 to decide the fate of the new Eagle River Station proposal, and as that date approaches the political debate surrounding the development proposal has become more lively.
In particular, talk surrounding the proposal has taken a turn into the land of "what if?"
The two big "what if's" out there are tied to the revelation that RED Development Company, the developer of the Eagle River Station project has submitted a bid in the Gypsum Town Center auction and to City Markets future plans for Eagle.
Eagle River Station is a commercial/residential project proposed by Trinity RED Development on the eastern end of town, south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6. The 88-acre property would include 582,000 square feet of commercial space and 250 rental units in the first phase. The second phase calls for up to 150,000 square feet of commercial space and another 300 rental units.
This is the second incarnation of ERS. In January 2010, voters rejected the initial ERS plan and Trinity RED Development retooled its proposal and resubmitted the plan to the town. The new development plan was approved by the Eagle Town Board March 27 in a 6-1 vote.
Jeff McMahon, one of the principals of RED Development, said the company did submit a bid to obtain the 74-acre Tower Center in Gypsum. The sealed-bid auction deadline was April 11. The Tower Center commercial site is approved for 458,000 square feet of retail space and is located east of Stratton Flats and immediately north of the airport, bordering the south side of U.S. Highway 6.
"We've always been committed to doing a retail development in the valley," said McMahon Tuesday. He noted that desire spurred the company to submit a bid in the Tower Center auction, but it does not indicate a move away from the ERS plan.
"Eagle River Station is our No. 1 priority. We think it is the best location in the valley," said McMahon.
McMahin said RED has not begun conversations with Gypsum regarding any possible development in the community, nor has the company learned the outcome of the auction. McMahon added he does not know how many sealed bids were submitted last week.
RED's consideration of a second downvalley site has generated a new interest in cost sharing proposals between the Gypsum and Eagle communities. During the Red Mountain Ranch hearings (a predecessor of the current ERS proposal at the same site) the towns negotiated a cost share plan. That proposal resulted in a 60/40 split of unencumbered revenues at the Costco site. But the deal does not mean Eagle collects $40 from every $100 in sales tax generated at the big box store.
According to Gypsum Finance Director Mark Silverthorne the town must earmark .8 percent of its sales tax revenue for law enforcement services and an additional 1 percent for the Gypsum Recreation Center. The town has also negotiated a debate incentive with Costco. As a result, the 60/40 cost share comes after these required deductions and the end result is lower. For every $100 in sales tax revenues from the Costco site, Eagle receives $16 through the cost share deal. (See accompanying graph)
Silverthorne also noted that the cost share agreement is subject to an annual appropriation from the Gypsum Town Council. Without a vote of the citizens in both communities, the deal cannot be made a permanent part of town operations and thus must be reappropriated annually. Either the Gypsum Town Council or the Eagle Town Board could vote to cease the cost share.
As far as RED is concerned, cost share deals are not part of the company's development concern. "All we did was give a last-minute bid," he noted.
As part of their examination of the ERS project, Eagle officials asked consultant Arne Ray of Ray Real Estate Services to check out a rumor concerning City Market's future plans in the community.
While the town is prohibited from singling out a single business when reporting sales tax revenues, the Market Street commercial area, which includes City Market, is responsible for 46 percent of the community's overall sales tax collections. That's why Eagle officials became nervous when the rumors concerning a possible move for the supermarket surfaced.
What Ray found was that Kroger, the parent company of City Market, has recently been expanding existing stores to 60,000 to 70,000 square feet. The Eagle City Market is 38,000 square feet and its site is space constrained. The store could likely only expand by 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, which would not match the Kroger model Ray cited. That means for expansion, City Market would have to look for an alternate Eagle site or move to Gypsum.
The Enterprise was unable to reach City Market officials for comment concerning their plans for stores to serve the downtown communities.