After months of hearings concerning the proposed Haymeadow development south of town, the Eagle Town Board is nearing a sketch plan decision for the 660-acre property.
Sketch plan is the initial step in the town's development process and it is limited in scope. In general, sketch plan determines if proposed uses and densities for a project are acceptable. If approval is granted, the town traditionally sets a series of conditions that must be met when a developer proceeds to a more detailed preliminary plan.
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. He said the plan is a "conservation-oriented development" characterized by large open space tracts that comprise the major amenity of the development. Newman said 60 percent of the land contained in Haymeadow is classified as open space. The Haymeadow proposal includes 11.5 miles of recreational trails and a wildlife migration corridor ranging from 500 to 1,000 feet across runs north to south across the property.
In reviewing the proposal, Eagle Town Planner Tom Boni recommended approval of the Haymeadow development subject to a list of 44 conditions that addressed issues including traffic concerns, open space land dedications, wildlife mitigation, landscape buffers and more. Boni said the Haymeadow plan is unique and different than other neighborhoods in town and noted that traffic concerns are among the biggest issues with the proposal and many conditions have been tied to that topic.
In particular, the town has indicated that the Brush Creek Road extension, which would link to U.S. Highway 6 and the three-way stop located at the entrance to Eagle Ranch on Capitol Street, must be completed as a part of the Haymeadow approval. Additionally, traffic improvements for several intersections along Sylvan Lake Road would be required to handle the additional traffic generated by the proposed development.
During his comments, Newman first addressed the issue of his personal bankruptcy filing in Florida, news that broke last month.
"I wanted to address it again to put away any concerns about Haymeadow," said Newman.
He said the severe decline in Florida real estate hit him personally and he has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize his debts. "It is similar to General Motors, and I hope I come out of it as well as they did," said Newman.
Newman noted the Haymeadow project is 100 percent financed by his partner, Alan Cohen, the founder and former CEO of Andrx Pharmaceuticals. Cohen stepped down from the company in 2001.
"The project, as we have mentioned before, is 100 percent debt free," said Newman.
Newman said that since they first purchased the property in 2005, the Haymeadow team has demonstrated patience in proposing a development and willingness to listen to what is appropriate for the Eagle community, The result, he said, is the current proposal.
During the course of the sketch plan hearings, Newman noted that the town's desire to preserve wildlife and view corridors, cluster development and develop a large multi-use tract that would include a K-8th grade school site as well as accompanying athletic fields, will be accommodated as the project moves forward and those issues have resulted in the reduction of more than 100 units. Newman said the Haymeadow's new density is approximately 869 units because of the changes. He also cautioned that further reductions in density would likely threaten the economic viability of the proposal.
In the end, Newman said Haymeadow would provide critical mass for the town and help current and future businesses flourish. He also noted the project has a 10- to 20-year build-out forecast.
"We are and will continue to be, very patient," said Newman. "We will not build until the market tells us it is the right time to build."
Residents question timing
Public comment regarding the Haymeadow plan drew the largest contingent so far in the review process.
Resident Emma Whiting noted the 660-acre parcel is currently home to a large elk herd and historic agricultural uses. "I understand that the Haymeadow area has been designed for development, but we can do better than the plans we see today," she said.
That sentiment was echoed by resident Bill Heicher. He noted that the Haymeadow land is the last significant growth parcel for the town of Eagle, and questioned if timing is ripe for that growth. Heicher said Eagle currently has more than 1,000 unbuilt or vacant housing units.
"It there really a need? Is it the right time? This land will be here for development when there really is a need and the time is right."
Heicher also questioned whether the plan presented is a true representation of conservation-oriented development. He said that definition is characterized by compact and clustered density that leaves large parcels undisturbed.
"I think you can do a better design of this property and do a better design when it is eventually needed that is compact and clustered," Heicher said. "Be a visionary. Be a big-picture thinker. I don't think this is the plan that it could be. If this is the right place for future development, it will be the right place for development in 10, 20 or 50 years from now. It's not going anywhere.
"Don't be afraid to say no to this current proposal," said Heicher.
Rosie Shearwood, a Brush Creek resident who has at times been the sole voice of opposition during the Haymeadow review process, presented a petition with 82 signatures from Brush Creek, Salt Creek and Bruce Creek residents who oppose the Haymeadow plan. "We rural citizens have no vote, but we are the most affected," noted the petition language.
On the pro side, Barbara Scrivens and Lon Clark voiced support for the plan. Scrivens said the Haymeadow project is desirable because of its ability to bring critical mass to Eagle. "I do believe you need economic vitality," said Scrivens.
Clark said the project would result in needed construction jobs for the valley. "Construction has always been a big part of what this valley thrives on," he said.
Noting that member Anne McKibben was absent, town board members elected not to begin their deliberations over the Haymeadow project. They continued the hearing until the Sept. 25 meeting and indicated public comment can again be offered at that time.
The town board formally accepted the 2011 audit prepared by Monahan, Lapman and Hays, P.C. Company representative Roger Maggard presented the audit findings and noted "Once again we found the town's books and accounts in excellent order."
Maggard did present several suggestions for next year's financials, including more timely collection of developer reimbursements. When the town reviews large scale projects - such as Eagle River Station or Haymeadow - specific legal, engineering and planning work is completed and the costs associated with that work is billed back to the developer. There is currently $118,000 of outstanding reimbursements that the town must collect.
Trustee Brandi Resa voiced concerns over the reimbursements issue and urged the town to be more prompt in collections. She suggested instituting a quarterly board review of the budget to address such issues.
Other board members indicated they would be willing to look at scheduling periodic budget reviews. But they also noted that the overall audit report showed the town was on a solid financial footing and compliant with reporting requirements.
"If you look at the general fund, it ended up being within $4,000 on a $4 million budget. In the overall scheme, the staff did a great job," said Trustee Scott Turnipseed.
In other action the town board:
• Discussed last week's Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission decision regarding proposed bicycle access in the Hernage Gulch area. The planning commissioner voted against opening the area to bikes, keeping existing pedestrian only restrictions in place. In light of that decision, Mayor Yuri Kostick noted several people have questioned him about pedestrian use in the area "If it is a wildlife concern, show it be closed to all human activity," he asked. That issue will be discussed at the Sept. 25 town board meeting. Additionally, Turnipseed requested a discussion regarding the trails amendment process, which currently leaves the decision to the planning commission. Turnipseed questioned whether the town board should make final decisions concerning new trails in the town. That discussion is also slated for Sept. 25
• Heard a report from Kostick regarding a recent visit to the RED Development headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. RED is the developer of the proposed Eagle River Station project. Kostick noted he toured several RED projects and was generally impressed with the company's developments.