It all started at a dinner one month ago. Ten of our neighbors got together in mid-April. We ate, we talked about snow, summer, food, the usual. Over dessert, the subject of ERS came up and we discovered that all of us were passionate about the subject. We decided to become involved.
We are not coordinating with the developer, and we have not taken any funds from the developer or from forces that are outside the town. We are entirely self-funded by individuals interested in our grassroots effort. But we feel strongly that this town must pass this referendum for a number of reasons.
We have researched the numbers, met with town staff, and worked to discover what the facts are concerning ERS. On day one, our group decided to work to be as honest and accurate as we could be. We try to cut through whatever spin there might be on the facts regarding ERS and we present those facts so that folks can make an informed decision.
It is easy for one side to cherry-pick selective data resulting in partial truths or misinformation. Finding reality among the spin can be tough for voters.
Here is our shot at presenting the facts that we have found regarding the main issues around this debate.
Jobs - ERS will create about 760 construction jobs in 2013 and probably around 360 for 2014. ERS will create about 1740 long term jobs once the entire development is completed.
Parking - ERS has proposed a parking density of 3.63 parking spaces for each 1000 square feet of retail space. Including the parking for the apartments, the parking space density is 3.75 parking spaces per 1000. This is very low compared to many other shopping districts.
Location - The location is considered to be one of the best locations for retail stores between Copper Mountain and Grand Junction because of weather, visibility, and accessibility. The ERS proposal exactly matches what is specified in our community plan.
Size - ERS Phase I is 68 acres. In an apples to apples comparison Glenwood Meadows Phase I is 66.3 acres. ERS Phase II adds 20 more acres, Glenwood Meadows Phase II adds 60.7 more acres. But perhaps a better comparison would be relative to the size of our existing Chambers business district which is about 122 acres. ERS Phase I is about half the size of our existing Chambers business district.
Who pays? -There are two pots that the funds will come from to pay for building ERS. $203.8 million will come from the developer's funds and $67 million will come from an ERS Metro District. Just as the Eagle Ranch project created a metro district to build the community part of Eagle Ranch (like the water, sewer, streets and golf course), ERS will build the water, sewer, streets and exit on I-70 using funds from the ERS Metro District. These funds will be repaid by the ERS customers and property owners in the new development through sales and property taxes. Eagle will not assume any financial liability for any of the debt and cannot be in default. There is no financial risk to the town for this project.
Who is the developer? -RED Development has a website at www.reddevelopment.com where voters can review the company and 31 ERS-type projects that they have in both large and small towns.
Will this be successful? -Voters should understand that much of retail in this project will be custom built based on what a particular store desires for its space (build to suit). The town has specified that some 40 percent of the retail space needs to be signed up via contracts or letters of intent prior to the start of construction work.
Small town character - Eagle has a fun small western town vibe with a pretty, but struggling downtown. Although only 7 percent of our retail trade occurs on Broadway, community events often center there or in the nearby Town Park. Other towns along I-70 have discovered that by nurturing national brand retail along the highway, they can benefit from the increased trade while they preserve and enhance their downtowns.
City Market -There has been a lot of buzz about the City Market issue. Are they staying, are they moving, are they expanding? Cutting through the spin, let's just look at the facts: City Market accounts for about 40 percent of all the sales tax money that funds our town's operations. Sales taxes are the lion's share of the town's revenues. So basically, we have 40 percent of our eggs in one basket. Even if City Market does not move, the citizens of the town and the town are in a risky situation.
Town budget - We have spent a good deal of time looking into the town finances. The town is not going belly up this year. Or next. But we are depleting our reserve funds and that can not continue forever. Sales tax revenues into neighboring towns have rebounded from the recession. Last year, Rifle was up 10 percent, Gypsum up 7 percent, Avon up 4 percent, Glenwood up 3 percent. Eagle is the only town not bouncing back from the recession. We now have four years in a row of declines. This year we are using 1/3 of our remaining reserve fund. At this rate, our reserves will be completely gone in two years.
Vote Yes to Eagle is a grassroots group of Eagle residents who care about the health of our community. We are your neighbors and your friends, united by the recognition that we desperately need more jobs in town and we desperately need more retail business in town to balance with our residential numbers. Please vote yes to ERS.