A new plan for Edwards? | VailDaily.com

A new plan for Edwards?

Veronica Whitney

Seventeen years later, the proposed Edwards Area Community Plan has been drafted for an area that has grown from a few large ranches into a community of more than 8,000 people, complete with its own commercial center and several residential developments.

Once adopted, the new plan will guide land use, transportation, water, culture, housing, economic development, recreation and open space in the Edwards community.

People who attended three recent open houses about the new plan said traffic continues are their No. 1 issue.

“The community, loud and clear, said they have issues with traffic. They also want to protect open space and create affordable housing,” says Rebecca Leonard, a senior planner with the Eagle County Community Development Department.

How to preserve open space and focus development in downtown Edwards are the main aspects of the proposed plan, Leonard says.

“Many of us have been pushing for the sub-area master plan,” says Peter Bergh, president of the Berry Creek Metro Board and a resident of Singletree. “We all have to understand that the valley is changing and will continue to change. I think we need to concentrate in traffic issues. County officials should hold all development until some or all traffic issues are resolved.”

County commissioners have approved several developments without making sure there was infrastructure in place, Bergh says.

Results of a telephone survey of Edwards residents conducted in June by Eagle County show the top three pedestrian improvements for roads in Edwards are sidewalks, crosswalks at traffic signals and overpasses.

“The survey was an afterthought,” Leonard says. “It reinforced what we heard at the three open houses.”

Bergh, who lived in Aspen in the early 1960’s, says he watched the town go from a wonderful to a shallow community populated by third-, fourth- and fifth-home owners.

“To avoid that you need a balance between affordable housing and expensive houses,” he says.

Record growth in the Vail Valley in the 1990s exacerbated the affordable housing crisis in Edwards and Eagle County, county officials say. Price increases for single-family homes skyrocketed 93 percent, from 1990 to 1995.

“Affordable housing came out as a priority,” Leonard says, “so we elaborated on the goals and added more diversity of housing.”

In the telephone survey, more than 60 percent of respondents supported additional affordable housing development in Edwards.

Bergh, however, says he’d like to see other communities in the valley shoulder their fair share of affordable housing.

“We have resented that the county has appeared to stuff into Edwards a lot of affordable housing,” he says.

The new plan, which presents vision, goals and objectives for the Edwards area, is just an advisory document, however, Leonard says.

“The implementation tools are still the land-use regulations, which are the law,” she says.

The Eagle County Planning Commission, responsible of adopting master plans, could adopt this community plan.

“We did some projections for what the demands for housing will be in 20 years, and this plan falls short,” she says. “The plan should be updated every five or 10 years.

“If and when (Edwards residents) decide to incorporate, they could still use this plan,” she says.

Bergh, who also is a member of the Eagle Valley Land trust, says it’s important there are big blocks of open space in and among the developed areas.

“Keeping the communities somewhat separate adds value to them,” Bergh says.

Residents of Edwards have a chance today to review and comment on the new community plan – includes a Future Land Use Map – at a hearing of the Eagle County Planning Commission.

Public hearing today

Who: Eagle County Planning Commission.

What: Hearing on proposed Edwards Area Community Plan.

When: 5:30 p.m. today.

Where: Parish gymnasium, Saint Clare of Assissi, 31622 US Hwy. 6, Edwards.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

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