Big boxes get more scrutinity from Eagle
EAGLE – Large-scale development brings with it some large issues.That’s the reason that it will likely be spring before the Eagle Town Board is ready to vote on an updated designed for the Red Mountain Ranchc commercial-residential complex. As proposed, the mixed-use development, to be located on 442 acres on the east edge of Eagle along Interstate 70, would include 337 dwelling units and 450,000 square feet of commercial space, capable of accommodating a “big box”-type store.The Town Council will take up the topic again on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m., focusing on annexation issues.Smaller storesTwo weeks ago, Town Board members instructed developer Merv Lapin and his consultants to update the marketing study that was used when a previous town board approved a preliminary plan for the project in December, 2001. Town Board members, their advisors and residents have said the 2001 study may not reflect the current market for big-box stores.
Since that study was completed, a Home Depot and Super Wal-Mart have been built in Avon while a Target and Lowe’s are currently under construction in Glenwood Springs.”The Town Board wants an update on what big boxes have developed, and what market niches are left,” Eagle Town Planner Larry McKinzie said. Three years ago, the developers and town leaders were focussing on the possibility of bringing a Target store into Eagle, he said. “If Target is going to Glenwood, it is not likely it will be coming to Eagle any time soon,” McKinzie said. “The board wants to know what type of big box might be interested in locating here.” The updated study, by Economic Planning Systems, will be presented to the Town Board in January.The Red Mountain Ranch project is being reviewed in a series of meetings, focusing on different topics. Each of the meetings has drawn small crowds of residents, many of whom have concerns about the impacts of a big-box store development in a small town.Kathryn Rose, a new homeowner in Eagle, said she owns a pet-supply business in Edwards, and has been considering opening up a store in Eagle. But she was wary about the prospect of competing with a future big-box store.”Do you think people like us are going to jump in if you build a big center?” she asked the Town Board.
‘Middle burner’The town is about to make major improvements downtown. Some board members, and audience members, pressed Lapin for an answer on just what type of big-box store is interested in coming into Eagle.”If we bring Wal-Mart here, it kills downtown. What is wrong with being selective about who comes into this community,” board member Ed Woodland said. He argued that if the town knows what retailer is interested in coming in, the impacts can be more accurately evaluated.Red Mountain Ranch planning consultant, Tom Braun, said the developers do not yet know what big-box retailer would come in. He said that, as studies help to define the trade area and identify the how much money residents spend outside the town, the developer can better determine the type of commercial project that is needed in the town. Knowing what store is coming in would also answer questions about the size and design of the project, he said.A consultant from Economic Planning Systems said national retailers constantly scope out new markets. At this point, he said, the Eagle Valley would be considered a “middle burner” market as opposed to a front burner with an immediate need.Newcomers’ concerns
Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney suggested the new development, with careful crafting, could be a “win-win” situation for the downtown businesses. However, he also acknowledged, a decision on Red Mountain Ranch will play a significant role in shaping the future character of the community.”I’m concerned that we could be the board that does something that will have negative impacts on Eagle,” he said. “On the other hand, nobody comes to Eagle now to spend money.”McKinzie and assistant planner Bill Gray said many of the citizens who have been showing up to voice concern about Red Mountain Ranch are people who moved to Eagle fairly recently.”A lot of the concern deals with what Eagle is going to be and will that big-box store change the town,” Gray said.Both planners indicated it will likely be spring before the Town Board has the information necessary to make a decision.”I don’t know why we should be in a hurry,” McKinzie said. “If we’re going to approve it, let’s get it right. If not, let’s know why.”Vail, Colorado