A month after the former Eagle Town Board voted 6-1 to approve the plan for Eagle River Station and set a May 22 citizen referendum regarding the proposed development, the issue is still generating heated discussion for the newly elected board.
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 last year.
During public comment at Tuesday's town board meeting, a cadre of citizens spoke in favor of the ERS proposal and took newly elected trustee Brandi Resa to task for her role in defeating the previous ERS proposal.
Resident Mitch Hayne questioned the whether it is appropriate for Resa to write a Valley Voices column, presenting "her version of a meeting without the approval of the whole board." He reintroduced a question that was poised two weeks ago - Where did the money come from for the anti-ERS campaign in 2010?
"It is critical for the community to know where that money came from," said Hayne. He said because of her involvement in the anti-ERS effort, Resa should know who donated the campaign money and said the town deserved an answer to the question.
Mayor Yuri Kostick noted there was a financial report submitted to the town regarding the anti-ERS campaign and that the report did not list Resa as chairman.
"The question is not whether she was the chairperson. It was does she know where the money came from?" said town board member Scott Turnipseed. "If the money was from out-of-town, people have the right to know where it came from."
Resa responded that while she was a part of the anti-ERS campaign, she was not privy to the financial information. "I don't know where the money came from," she emphatically stated.
Resa added that as the financial chair for the new anti-ERS effort- the Keep it Real campaign - she will be filing the financial disclosure forms as per the town's regulations.
Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell and Eagle Town Attorney Ed Sands noted that the campaign finance forms for the anti-ERS effort were submitted to the town and the forms showed two donations of $30,000 and one donation of $10,000 made by a citizen's group. However, there were no individual names associated with the citizen group so the town does not know who donated to the cause.
"I think the techniques that were used were in the gray area, legally," said Sands.
Paolo Narduzzi, the resident who first cited the issue of Resa's involvement in the previous campaign, apologized for incorrectly identifying her as the financial chair of the effort. However, he continued his criticism that the citizens of Eagle never learned who paid for the previous campaign.
"There was, essentially, money laundering as far as I am concerned and I don't think that is right."
As the discussion continues, a number of citizens offered their support for the new ERS proposal.
Robert Riddle noted that back in the 1980s, the country weathered an economic downturn. "But as bad as things were in the 80s, we didn't know anyone who had lost their home," he said. That's different now, he noted with a number of foreclosed homes in his Eagle Ranch neighborhood.
Riddle said that people in Eagle are hurting and they need jobs and an economic push. "If there were other viable alternatives to improving the town's position, I would be open to them."
"If we do not approve ERS, It will be a cold day in hell before another developer comes to town," Riddle added.
"I am so concerned about the future of Eagle," said resident Jenny Daly. She noted that as a former Glenwood Springs resident, she remembers the debate concerning the Glenwood Meadows project. "In hindsight, it was probably the best thing to happen in Glenwood Springs."
Rosie Burki, who described herself as a long-time local, did not speak directly to the ERS proposal, but said the town needs to address its long-term traffic concerns before pursuing additional development. "What we need is a west entrance to the town," she said.
Eagle's other large scale development proposal was also up for discussion Tuesday night when the town board reviewed traffic data regarding the Haymeadow project.
Haymeadow developer Ric Newman has proposed 979 residential units - multi-family and single family dwellings - on the 660 acre property located southeast of town in the Brush Creek Valley adjacent to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. The proposal includes open space tracts, which comprise the major amenity of the development, with 60 percent of the land contained in Haymeadow classified as open space.
But the Haymeadow's location means additional traffic through town via both Sylvan Lake Road and Capitol Street and traffic issues comprise one of the biggest considerations for the proposed development.
In his review of the project, Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski cited nine specific traffic conditions that need to be met prior to development approval. Those conditions include construction of the Brush Creek extension - a project that has been on Eagle's drawing board from decades. The extension would be a new road located just south of the single family home loop of the Bull Pasture Subdivision and it would connect to U.S. Highway 6. Additionally Gosiorowski cited several improvements that would be needed along U.S. Highway 6 to meet the additional traffic demand.
"How do we burden this applicant with widening Highway 6 when a lot of the impact is from airport traffic and Gypsum growth?" asked Turnipseed.
Gosiorowski noted he was not suggesting that the Haymeadow was solely responsible for the improvements, but under the town's adequate public facilities ordinance, the development would have to chip in dollars toward a solution.
That solution is likely to be expensive. Gosiorowski noted that to deal with all the traffic mitigation issues, the price tag will be "well over $500,000."
Kraige Kinney, a former Eagle Town Board member, questioned whether it was the right time to be considering the Haymeadow project when many of the issues surrounding the development are uncertain. He also contended the project was too big and said a density of around 600 units would be more appropriate.
Brush Creek residents Max and Arlene Quenon presented a panoramic photo showing the 150 head elk herd that regularly resides on the Haymeadow parcel and Richard Kessler noted the development would intensely impact residents.
After completing the initial traffic review, Kostick said more discussion regarding the issue is warranted. "I think traffic is one of the deciding factors on this project," he said.
The town board will resume the Haymeadow hearing May 8.
In other action the town board:
• Conducted an hour-long discussion with representatives of Eagle County regarding issues of mutual interest.
• Approved a contract with Eric Mello of COBB Marketing to provide marking services for the community. The newly appointed Eagle Marketing and Events Committee recommended the firm, who's current clients include the communities of Fruita and Palisade.