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July 22, 2013
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Eagle County commissioners approve Wolcott plan

EAGLE — Wolcott wins.

After 32 hearings spanning five and a half years, the county commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new community. The crowd applauded when the voting was done.

“We’re pleased with the outcome, and thankful to the Jouflas family and our partners and look forward to the long road ahead,” said Rick Hermes, whose Community Concepts will build the community from the ground up.

The Jouflas family, who own the ranch, was there through every hearing. Various projects and master plans have been percolating since the 1980s, and the family sat through most of those, too.

Chris Jouflas, the silver-haired patriarch of the Jouflas family, moved slowly to the podium for one of his rare public statements.

“You’ve done a magnificent job,” Chris said, complimenting the county staff and commissioners. “To do all you have done is wonderful.”

“I look forward to a positive vote from you,” he said, then added, “Today.”

Greg Jouflas is one of George Jouflas’ sons. George, Chris’ older brother, died last year.

“If my dad were here, he’d say thank you for being open minded. This isn’t just a commodity to be turned into money. We love this land. If we didn’t think this was a good project we would never have become part of it,” Greg said.

The Jouflas family acquired the Wolcott 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.

Peter Runyon, a former county commissioner living in Homestead, has opposed it. He called it leapfrog development and said development in the Wolcott area is not inevitable.

“I am asking you to reject this out of hand,” Runyon said during Monday’s public comment period.

When Runyon began to ramble about Manifest Destiny and how Americans are misguided in thinking progress equals growth, County Commission chairperson Sara Fisher cut him off and asked him to be respectful of other people’s time and summarize his statements. She reminded Runyon that he’d said all that before, in public meetings and in writing.

The Wolcott decision was the first major vote for new commission Kathy Chandler-Henry, who replaced Jon Stavney. He resigned to be Eagle’s town manager.

Long, tough road

Monday’s hearing started at 8:30 a.m. The commissioners, the developers and the county’s planning staff spent all day slogging through the plan’s details and the 63 conditions tied to approval. Monday, of course, does not include the tens of thousands of hours the county staff and Hermes’ crew has spent on the plan since the Wolcott community plan was introduced in 2008.

In May 2008, the Jouflas family put the property under contract, about the time the county said it wanted Wolcott planned and developed as a single entity.

Fisher said the process was laborious because this would be one of the commissioners’ final opportunities to be as certain as possible that the project is done right.

Building Wolcott will create 1,600 jobs. More than 800 jobs will remain after construction is finished, Hermes said.

The focal point is the Eagle River and a mile and a half of limited public access, Hermes said.

Wolcott’s past

This will 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.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 22, 2013 08:19PM Published Jul 24, 2013 12:37PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.