EDWARDS — The results are in, and the verdict is: Edwards residents really like their community, and they want to keep it mostly the way it is.
Those were sentiments gathered from a community survey commissioned by Eagle County as they draft a new Edwards Master Plan. The survey, run by local consultant Braun Associates, had 825 participants and more than 1,700 written comments. The answers will help update the Edwards Master plan, which will outline what residents want their area to become (or not become) and guide the direction of the community in the next decade.
“A community plan identifies opportunities and constraints of properties. It guides and suggests future decision, but it is not zoning,” said Cliff Simonton, Eagle County’s senior planner.
More open space and trails
At a meeting on Thursday evening, residents had a chance to hear what their neighbors were saying and weigh in on what direction they’d like to see the community go.
According to the survey, 67 percent of respondents thought that the past 20 years of change have been positive. Only 4 percent said change was negative. Overall, respondents were resoundingly satisfied (more than 80 percent) with the quality of life in Edwards.
They listed top priorities for the future as improved pedestrian connectivity and safety, preservation of open space and more mountain biking trails.
“We heard a lot about open space on the survey,” said Simonton. “We like it, preserve it, give us more. We also heard that people wanted more connected trails and paths to make the town more pedestrian friendly.”
Many said they weren’t opposed to new developments, especially in West Edwards, but that planners should keep it low-profile, classy, keep a mix of affordable housing and manage traffic.
“I’ve seen so many changes in the time I’ve lived here, but I don’t think it’s all that bad,” said one longtime Lake Creek resident. “Somehow this community has maintained its independence. There’s not really anything I want changed.”
The funding question
As the town continues to grow, its residents, governing boards and the county are also faced with the challenge of finding ways to fund town improvements. Edwards is unincorporated, meaning it’s not a town. Instead, it falls under the jurisdiction of Eagle County and a number of super localized metro districts and boards. The upside is that there are less taxes and fewer governmental costs. A downside is that with no town government levying taxes, there’s a serious lack of funds for major improvement projects.
“It’s remarkable what has changed in the last 20 years,” said consultant Tom Braun, who helped facilitate the survey. “Edwards now has 10,000 people and is the largest population center in the county. But even though we look and act like a town, we’re not. “
Edwards does generate a fair amount of sales tax, but that money goes to the state, which then distributes the money to different counties, which then is spent on the county as a whole, including unincorporated areas such as Edwards.
Despite some improvements that will be needed in the future, such as the widening of the Spur Road or a roundabout to replace the main Edwards intersection, most residents are staunchly against becoming a town.
“We have some problems with the roads, but we don’t have the money to fix it,” said Edwards resident Patti Dixon. “But I’m not in favor of incorporating. I think sales tax is a fair assessment of Edwards. What I would like to see is some of that money stay here.”
While most respondents weren’t in favor of higher taxes, most thought funding solutions could be found within Edwards’ existing governing bodies, which can levy taxes.
“I think that what we have going on with the five metro districts and the Community Authority overseeing them and the relationship with the county is a great case study on how other small towns could be run,” said Terry Benedikt, an Edwards resident and member of several community boards. “I think it’s working out well without the huge infrastructure.”
For more information about the Edwards Master Plan, see www.eaglecounty.us/planning under the “master planning projects” section.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com.