Controversial Eagle plan clears hurdle
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Members of the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the Eagle River Station plan Tuesday night, clearing the way for the Eagle Town Board to begin public hearings for the controversial commercial/residential plan in mid-November.
Tuesday night’s action was a big departure from the Eagle River Station decision handed down in 2008 when the planning commission voted to recommend denial of the plan. Since that time, a lot has happened, including a town board approval for the former ERS plan and an election regarding the proposal in which voters rejected ERS. Trinity RED Development, the Kansas City, Mo.-based firm that is proposing the development, retooled the ERS plan and resubmitted it to the town last May, and for the past five months, the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission has been examining the new plan.
Eagle River Station is still a commercial/residential development proposed on the eastern end of town south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6. The 88-acre property would include 582,000 square feet of commercial space and 550 rental units. There would be two phases of development, with the first phase featuring the retail space and 250 rental units. The second phase would include “retail, rents, institutional and entertainment development to be developed as the market demands,” according to RED Development.
Since the first Eagle River Station proposal, there has been both turnover of planning and zoning commission membership and a rewrite of the Eagle Area Community Plan – Eagle’s master plan document. Tuesday night, the commission members noted that the new master plan document specifically calls for “regional retail” development along the Interstate 70 corridor. Additionally, they noted that in issuing their recommendation, they were instructed to determine if the plan is “substantially compliant” with the Eagle Area Community Plan and other Eagle master planning documents.
“I combed through this (the Eagle Area Community Plan). I spent this past week combing through the land use and everything we have heard,” said commission member Jim Jose. “I think it is 75 to 80 percent compliant. The problem is the 25 percent is some pretty serious pieces of it.”
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During their six-hour deliberations, the planning commission honed in on the issues of building height and mass as areas of particular concern. Parts of the ERS development will be four stories – or 55 feet high. Ultimately members agreed that height is not as large an issue as architectural style and overall design.
While the commission members did recommend approval of the ERS plan, they attached several conditions to the proposal, including everything from landscaping standards to road design to lighting issues.
“We’re certainly very pleased with the approval recommendation from the commission,” said Jeff McMahon, managing partner of RED Development. “We’ve worked hard to create a proposal that will result in a successful project for both the town of Eagle and for us.”
During his presentation Tuesday night, McMahon stated that RED Development remains committed to ERS and that the company is well-capitalized and positioned to complete the development.
“The town of Eagle needs to approve this project and approve it now. Jobs continue to leave the community,” said McMahon. “You don’t fix any employment problems by denying projects.”
On the other side of the argument, ERS opponent Brandi Resa noted she has attended all of the planning commission hearings on the project or listened to the audio records.
“The citizens who have attended have no confidence the planning and zoning board knew all of the details they approved in the PUD guide, which will be the guiding document used if and when this project gets built. It was simply too much information in too short a time frame for board, staff and citizens to process in a responsible manner,” said Resa.
“It is disappointing that the issue of the developer’s staff now working for the town has never been addressed by our leaders and that the results of the developer-led focus group meetings have never been released. As the file moves to the town board level, we are saddened that this file will once again divide our own and will require an extraordinary effort from citizens to again participate,” Resa continued.
“But fortunately for Eagle, getting new leadership won’t take an extraordinary amount of effort, as there are four board seats up for election in April 2012; because with or without Eagle River Station, there are currently five other business districts that need our support. All we ask is that citizens learn the facts before casting the next vote on this project or in the next trustee election. And in the meantime, please support the businesses that have already opened their doors in our wonderful community,” she concluded.