EAGLE — If God lives in the details, Wednesday’s Wolcott hearing was a religious experience.
After 31 Wolcott meetings during five and a half years, the county commissioners decided there would be at least one more.
They’ll talk about it again on Tuesday, after Kathy Chandler-Henry is sworn in to the board of county commissioners to replace commissioner Jon Stavney, who resigned to be Eagle’s town manager.
Wednesday’s hearing started at 8:30 a.m., and the commissioners spent all day hammering out the plan’s final details. The hearing ended at 4 p.m., when the commissioners closed it to deal with a scheduled item about insurance for the county’s elected officials.
“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed,” said Rick Hermes, whose Community Concepts has been working on this for five and a half years and spent $12 million.
Stavney said the project was “close” and said he preferred that the board continue to work through those details so it’s teed up for a vote by Chandler-Henry and the rest of the board.
After lunch when the hearing reconvened, Stavney asked the crowded room how many were there to oppose the project. Almost no one stirred.
He then asked how many supported the project. Almost every hand in the place went up.
Peter Runyon, a former county commissioner living in Homestead, was back to oppose it. He called it leapfrog development and said development in the area is not inevitable.
“We don’t want another non-town town,” Runyon said.
Jan Strauch lives in Wolcott’s Bellyache Ridge and said he loves the idea of a non-town town.
“This will be a benefit for the county and will more-than pay for itself. When I drive from East Vail to Dotsero, the valley is mostly green. If I were a developer, I would choose Wolcott. The plan is good, it’s small, smaller than could be built there.”
Sandy Roberts lives in Wolcott and said she wants it to stay that way.
“That’s why I moved there,” Roberts said.
The Jouflas family acquired the ranch in 1924 and has owned it ever since. At one time, the Jouflas family ran one of the four largest sheep operations in the country.
That ranch is where the Wolcott community would be built.
Michael Slevin lives in Edwards and spoke in favor of the plan, saying it has been seven years in design and development, and that it will help create new businesses.
“This is the right team to execute it, and I can’t imagine a better reason to recommend its approval,” Slevin said.
Commissioner Sara Fisher said she was most impressed by all the landowners coming together to create this plan.
“I think many of our other communities would be better served to follow that example. This is not the builder creating the community, this is the community coming together to create its future,” Fisher said.
This would be the second time Wolcott has been a local community center.
The town was once a thriving railhead community of 1,500 people called Russell, after one of the early settlers.
Ranchers and farmers from the Eagle River and Colorado River valleys brought products to the railhead to ship to the Front Range. It was also the major intersection of two major highways, U.S. Highway 6 and Highway 131.
Russell fizzled after the Moffat Tunnel was completed in 1928, and rail traffic was rerouted around Wolcott.