Tuesday night members of the Eagle Town Board painstakingly reviewed 50 proposed conditions for sketch plan approval of the Haymeadow development, but did not hone in on the biggest issue surrounding the proposal - just how many units would they allow at the 660-acre parcel?
Haymeadow developer Ric Newman has proposed 979 residential units - multi-family and single family dwellings - on the 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.
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.
Before the board launched its deliberations, project representative Rick Pylman said the developer was in general agreement with all the proposed conditions. During public comment, some members of the community argued the conditions don't get to their general contention that the proposal is too dense.
Resident and former town board member Kraige Kinney presented building permit information from the town showing that there has been very little building activity since 2008 when the national recession hit.
"We already have a pretty large stock of single family units, multi-family units and duplexes," said Kinney. "Unless there is a demand, it doesn't matter what the supply is. We have a project here there is no demand for."
"I think, right now, the developer is asking for as much as he can get," said resident Dave Eckhart. He suggested a density of 200 to 300 units would be more realistic.
While town board members indicated they also believed the density for the development proposal was too high, they backed off coming up with a hard number on Tuesday night. Instead they talked more about the overall character of the plan and the specific conditions.
Most specifically, board members were adamant that Haymeadow transition from higher density, smaller lots nearer to town to larger lots and lower density as it expands southeast to the Brush Creek Valley. They also supported strong conditions aimed at preserving the view corridor down the valley.
Members debated whether it is wise to get down to details in the sketch plan discussion. "I don't believe this is going to start any time soon," said member Scot Webster. "I think over-detailing it is in the town's best interest."
While there was general consensus on that notion, town board member Scott Turnipseed argued that looking at the plan comprehensively is a wise decision.
"I believe there is a huge advantage to planning this all at once," said Turnipseed.
Additionally, Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell noted that while there is an existing inventory of larger, more expensive lots in Eagle, there are not many smaller, more affordable lots available and Haymeadow does provide that option.
"In the lots in Eagle Ranch that remain, you are not going to build $200,000 homes," said Powell.
As they reviewed the 50 conditions for sketch plan approval, the town board members agreed to the items that dealt with issues such as enhancement of riparian and wetlands areas and recreational trails, water rights and view corridors. However, they debated conditions about on-street parking, traffic improvements and financing.
While some members supported the staff condition that would not allow on-street parking, other members said that rule was too limiting at sketch plan. Town engineer Tom Gosiorowski said it was important to make that decision early because not allowing on-street parking affects overall design and density. He urged the board to place the same regulations regarding on-street parking that exist in The Terrace and in the golf course neighborhood of Eagle Ranch ,rather than the rules at the Village Homes neighborhood where such parking is allowed. "On street parking has been a huge issue for your staff," he added.
Ultimately, the board agreed to leave the condition in place.
A condition that called for "construction of signalization or roundabouts at the intersections of Sylvan Lake Road/Brush Creek Road, Sylvan Lake Road/proposed school and rec center access and Sylvan Lake Road/Ouzel Lane" was debated when Mayor Yuri Kostick recommended removing the option for traffic signals to require roundabout construction. "I think traffic signals would change the character of Eagle Ranch," he said.
"I think that would be limiting ourselves to solutions that might work better if we did that," said town board member Anne McKibben.
"My real, heartfelt feeling about this is we haven't done enough analysis yet," said Gosiorowski.
The board opted to leave both signals and roundabouts in the condition.
A condition regarding possible formation of a metropolitan district to defray costs of Haymeadow development prompted Turnipseed and Webster to go on the record about their no compromise issue regarding Haymeadow.
"The one thing I cannot live with is cost to the town. I am not going to be up for something that is a huge financial burden to the town," said Turnipseed.
After nearly three hours of discussion regarding the conditions, the board sent the 50-item list back to staff to tweak phrasing for some items. The board members agreed to continue their Haymeadow deliberations at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
"I think the staff has a very clear idea on everything, except density," said Powell.
That statement drew some rueful chuckles from the board and members agree to come armed with various ideas and density specifics when they reconvene next month.