Eagle sees record turnout in vote on development | VailDaily.com

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Eagle sees record turnout in vote on development

NWS ERS 2 KA 01-05-10

EAGLE – Results for the Eagle River Station election were still being tallied as of midnight on Tuesday.

One thing was clear, though: Eagle saw its highest voter turnout in the town’s election history. About 2,200 residents voted in the election, Town Clerk Marilene Miller said. That’s about 61 percent of Eagle’s 3,585 registered voters, she said.

Folks from both campaigns were still anxiously awaiting the results late Tuesday night. Watching the vote count inside Town Hall, opposition campaign consultant David Flaherty said it was too soon to make a prediction.

“I really think it’s close,” he said. “I don’t know either way.”

Opponents of Eagle River Station had gathered at the home of Jan Rosenthal Townsend, where they were sipping wine by a fire as they waited for the final tally.

“We’re feeling cautiously optimistic,” said Rosenthal Townsend, an Eagle business owner. “However it turns out, may the best team win.”

“We’re trying to preserve Eagle,” she added. “We know we’ve done everything we can and we’ve done the right thing.”

From the other camp, supporters met at Paradigms restaurant as the count continued.

Paul Witt, a spokesman for Trinity RED Eagle Development, said he was “thrilled” with the voter turnout.

“It’s an important decision for the town and people took it very seriously, which is good to see,” he said.

Witt declined to guess who won the election.

“If I were making predictions, I would play the lottery a lot more,” he said. “It’s hard to say. I’m confident in our message, in the project, in the town, and I believe we’re going to prevail and it’s the right decision for the town.”

Also waiting inside Paradigms, Eagle resident Frances Rolater said RED has brought high quality team to the campaign.

“People have put their hearts and minds into this,” she said. “I am going to be peaceful and happy whatever the result is.”

Plans for Eagle River Station include 552,000 square feet of commercial space with a Target store, hotel and 581 condos on the east side of town.

The estimated cost of the development is $346 million. Of that, $62.4 million is earmarked for public improvements, including a new Interstate 70 interchange and a new water tank. Proponents call the development a lifeline for Eagle’s financial future, adding that it will create some 1,900 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. It would also allow area residents to spend more money in town, contributing to sales tax collections and preventing tax “leakage,” proponents say.

Opponents see it as a scourge to small-town character, and say that it is too big and out of scale with the rest of the community. They also say the development uses land inefficiently and is costly to the taxpayer, adding that ERS will negatively affect traffic in town. Opponents also say that the majority of “off-site” improvements to the town infrastructure are needed mainly to service the Eagle River Station development, not to benefit the rest of the town.

Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd contributed to this report

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

Eagle resident Barbara Firminger, 44, likes the idea of more shopping in town. That’s one reason why she voted for Eagle River Station, which includes 552,000 square feet of commercial space with a Target on the east side of town.

“I would like some of the shops that are coming in,” Firminger said. “I think the whole foods store is really important for this community and very well needed. I shop a lot at Target. I would rather have the tax revenue stay here than go to Glenwood Springs.”

Along with the retail component, she thinks the project’s 581 proposed condos would help the local real estate market.

“I think we need to have multiple levels and multiple sizes of houses,” she said.

Rich Houghton agreed locals need more shopping choices.

“I really like the small-town charm of downtown Eagle, but I think Eagle needs both small-town charm and opportunities for jobs and more shopping for the residents,” the 60-year-old middle school teacher said.

For Seth Reynolds, the promise of more jobs is appealing.

“I’m pro-development,” said the 27-year-old who works in purchasing at the Vail Valley Medical Center. “I think it’s a good way to get new jobs, construction-wise, and then permanent jobs once it is built.”

Nineteen-year-old Lainey McDonough said she voted against Eagle River Station because the town has already seen enough development.

“I like the small-town feel, and I think we need to keep it that way,” she said.

James Carullo, a 38-year-old teacher, said he’s less interested in building Eagle’s infrastructure than protecting the natural environment.

“It’s an elk migration path,” he said. “They’ve been using that (land) to migrate for thousands of years. I don’t feel our interests supersede theirs.”

Diane Purse, a 53-year-old health care professional, said several reasons prompted her “no” vote.

“I feel like the smaller businesses in town won’t benefit from it,” she said. “They’ve kind of stuck it out all these years. I don’t think we need a big shopping center. I don’t think it’s going to bring a lot of money to the town.”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.