Columnist: Eagle River Station a risky prospect |

Columnist: Eagle River Station a risky prospect

Jan Rosenthal
Vail, CO Colorado

In reference to Scott Miller’s editorial on March 12, “A tough call for Eagle,” we agree that the “newly elected” Trustees of the Town of Eagle have a difficult job ahead of them regarding decisions for the Town of Eagle ” particularly decisions regarding Eagle River Station. We commend all of our fellow citizens that are willing to give service to our great town.

The biggest objection to ERS is not just where the project is located ” it’s that it is too massive: 1 million square feet of “whatever” with 4-5 story buildings is totally out of scale with the existing town. The East Eagle interchange should not be an impetus to approving a project that “doesn’t work” and without the project, there is no need nor is there funding for that interchange. Scott said “ERS gives Eagle a full diamond interchange”” let’s be clear: No one is “giving” us anything. An interchange in East Eagle is viewed by most as the “interchange to nowhere.” It would do nothing to alleviate the congestion at the main roundabout, which is where the biggest problem is. A West Eagle interchange tying into Sylvan Lake Road at Eagle Ranch is much more conducive to mitigating the current congestion. We need to explore all the avenues on how to fund one there ” albeit, not an easy task.

Scott wrote “the project is about the money.” True, however, how about more like “it’s about the money Eagle won’t see for 25 years ” if ever.” The TIF is set up that way, besides, the bond market is in the tank. And, what about the tens of millions the town is being asked to ante up for off-site improvements just so that the project can be built? So much for the developer “paying their way” as they said at the project’s inception. And, there has been no mention about all the many costly expenses that we incur after it’s built: extra police, firemen, security, maintenance, human services, daycare, schools, etc. And, how about the millions we incur as a town just to service another 581 homes annually? Gas is at the highest price ever. ERS’s market study says ERS will draw from as far as Steamboat and Summit County. Will people really drive 60-plus miles for something they can get on the Internet? (If so, certainly, it wouldn’t be a weekly visit.) These are big, unanswered questions.

Another critical issue not talked about by Scott Miller is the lack of employees. More than 2000 are needed for ERS, and they aren’t here. And, how about the recent news regarding major national retailers shutting down numerous stores in malls all over the country? Majors like Macy’s, Home Depot, Starbucks, Talbots, Ethan Allen, Ruby Tuesday, Cheese Cake Factory, Chili’s and many more. It’s tough times out there, folks. Eagle is no regional shopping Mecca, nor should it be. Even the recent town survey and Eagle Community Plan comments conclude “large format stores are a low priority.”

None of us (including the developer) have any idea who the retailer(s) would be at ERS. Nor do we know how successful it would be, both short and long term. Should we even entertain taking that big of a risk in these economic times? A risk that severely impacts our “quality of life” and “small town character” ” both of which are still top priorities for most Eagle citizens.

Another community consensus is that the town of Eagle needs to concentrate on infill on Highway 6/Grand Avenue, downtown and the rest of the vacant spaces in the five business districts of Eagle before entertaining a mega-mall on the outskirts of town. Scott’s comment that despite the renovation, “Downtown can never be more than a bit player in the town’s revenue” is merely his “assumption.” And, his analysis doesn’t account for “attrition of existing sales tax producing businesses” (which is likely to happen if ERS gets built). We all need to get creative (by thinking outside the box) about alternatives to ERS ” such as developing other economy-stimulating ideas and by perhaps focusing on events. For instance, events stimulate sense of community and have a great trickle-down effect on generating sales tax dollars and don’t burden our infrastructure long term. People come, spend money and leave.

Bottom line: Whether it’s the trustees voting or the citizens voting in a referendum, expecting Eagle River Station to solve all of our financial needs is like playing Russian roulette. There are way too many unanswered questions and absolutely no guarantees.

Jan Rosenthal Townsend writes on behalf of the Citizens for the Future of Eagle.

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