On Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Eagle County commissioners will meet to decide the fate of the Remonov Co. proposal to rezone what the county’s planning commission has deemed “de-facto open space” west of the Edwards firehouse to high-density multi-family to allow construction of 16 Habitat for Humanity homes. For more information on this, go to www.tractk.com.
The commissioners need to resoundingly say no to this proposal. Approving this would be telling any developer that it’s OK to tell the commissioners whatever it is that they would like to hear to gain a project approval, and that with a wink and a nod it can all be undone later.
The proposal also ignores countless requirements and standards that are currently in place for the approval of other new projects.
The issue is not building Habitat homes in this location. It is the suitability of this parcel to be built on for any reason, and maintaining the integrity of the land use process in Eagle County.
Nearly 500 residents have signed petitions against this (if you would like to sign one, go to www.tractk.com). It is opposed by the Eagle County Planning Commission; the Homestead, Stags Leap and Elk Meadows homeowners associations; and four other local governing entities. including the fire and ambulance districts) have expressed valid concerns about the appropriateness of this project. Never in 35 years can I recall such unified opposition to a proposal.
The reasons and concerns begin with the underlying plat restrictions put in place over 35 years ago and most recently reaffirmed as valid and agreeable to by the current owner (Rick Mueller of the Remonov Co.) in 1996. The uses permitted by these restrictions on Tract K are severely limited and do not include residential or commercial building. The property has been taxed as open space (meaning $25 a year taxes) for decades, garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax abatements.
There are numerous references in the county files that this property should not ever be developed, and many nearby homeowners thought this would be protected open space when they bought their land based upon those restrictions being in place and presumably permanent. I believe that even though Mueller personally signed and reaffirmed the 1996 plat notes assuring residents that the restrictions placed by earlier owners were still his promise, he now wants that promise swept aside so he can donate the land to Habitat in exchange for very valuable transferable housing credits that he can then sell to other developers to offset their requirements for developing affordable housing. This will be a very profitable deal for the Remonov Co. if it is approved.
In addition, the site plan calls for parking on the east side of the site that will back out into the driveway used by the fire department and ambulance district. On-street parking is not allowed in the Eagle County land use regulation, yet it is clearly proposed here. This poses a danger for all, and while Habitat families may deem the danger acceptable, what right does anyone have to impose further hazards to the men and women who are driving emergency response vehicles?
If there were an accident involving injury or loss of life resulting from a fire truck striking a pedestrian or a car backing out, the fire truck is going to win, but the emotional toll on the driver could be permanent and devastating. In addition, the response delay caused by an accident could be life or death to someone waiting for help.
On the west side of the site, the foundations of the homes are proposed to be within two feet of the active irrigation ditch that runs through the property. This would completely ignore the county’s own requirement that there be a minimum of a 10-foot setback for irrigation ditches. There are some plat notes on an older plat that might indicate a 15-foot easement is required. The site plan also exceeds the county’s allowable hard surface coverage, and contains about half of the required snow storage called for in county land use guidelines.
This property has also been deemed a flood area, there is a huge drainage basin above Homestead that drains into this area and it is always rather swampy. Engineers have predicted that as little as two and a half inches of rain in six hours could trigger a flash flood. No plan or cost estimate has been forthcoming (and requests for such have been ignored) for a flood control system.
Preliminary engineering studies done in 2010 call for swimming pool-sized underground storage tanks to divert flood waters into. These would have to built and maintained by the Habitat homeowners association at probably considerable expense. When I asked Mueller to allow Intermountain Engineering to elaborate on their ideas for dealing with storm runoff, he forbade them to discuss it with me. Why would he do that if he had nothing to hide?
The proposed final plat map also is quite lacking in many regards. The easement for the existing bike path between Tract K and U.S. Highway 6 has mysteriously vanished. The application also states the existing driveway to the firehouse will be widened from 20 to 24 feet, yet that change is not made on the proposed plat. One can only wonder why. Perhaps Mueller is hoping nobody reads the fine print?
Chris Neuswanger is a Homestead resident.