Controversial projects in Eagle quiet for now
EAGLE — Eagle residents routinely duke it out during the public hearing process when development proposals come to town.
They flood the newspaper with letters to the editor, organize referendum campaigns and wave signs in the roundabouts to air their views. But in several recent cases, after a spirited skirmish, the proposals that generated such a brouhaha have faded into relative obscurity.
Where is Eagle River Station today? What’s up with Haymeadow? Why didn’t Rocky Mountain Pure open a retail marijuana operation?
“We often think we are the one thing between a project and it getting done,” said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney. “The fact is we are just one step in a complex series of steps most projects have to do before they can get something done.”
Financing hurdles and planning issues aren’t resolved during the town’s review. Combine that with national economic conditions and ownership changes and there are a myriad reasons why projects get stalled. But that doesn’t mean Eagle is in a holding pattern.
“My jaw drops when people say ‘What happened to this or that? Nothing is going on in town,’” said Stavney. “It’s hard to say nothing is going on when Castle Peak Senior Center is being built and Soleil (Homes at Brush Creek)is breaking ground and a new window and door shop is being built on Chambers (Avenue). We are also expecting a building permit application from City Market any day for its expansion project.”
Be that as it may, there hasn’t been a lot of movement on some other big projects in town — here is an update about some of Eagle’s once-controversial projects.
Eagle River Station
Stavney doesn’t like to use the words “Eagle River Station” any more. He refers to the project as “East Eagle,” a clear signal that the hotly debated development proposal plans a massive makeover.
In January, RED Development of Kansas City announced it was scrapping plans for the approved Eagle River Station development. Back in 2012, the Eagle Town Board approved the project plan and voters upheld that decision in a town referendum. The Eagle River Station plan called for a commercial/residential project at an 88-acre property located on the eastern end of town, south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6. The proposal called for 582,000 square feet of commercial space and 250 rental units in the first phase with another 150,000 square feet of commercial space and an additional 300 rental units in the second phase. As part of the proposal, there was an estimated $35 million price tag for RED to pay for public improvements to the site, including $18 million estimated for a new I-70 interchange.
Earlier this year, Jeff McMahon of RED Development said infrastructure costs, combined with today’s economic landscape, didn’t add up for Eagle River Station.
“The time frame for us to start our project was three years from the date that it was approved at referendum, which was May of 2015. Due to changes in the retail markets we have opted to let that time frame expire and to reevaluate the retail and multi-family markets as we move forward into 2016,” McMahon said in an interview this week. “We continue to have the zoning and PUD (planned unit development) approval in place, but we will need to amend the development agreement and site plan based on the findings of our reevaluation.
“We continue to be bullish on Eagle as a community, and we’re looking forward to working with the town in the near future on the modified plan,” McMahon said. “We anticipate that any modified plan will have less retail on it and multiple types of residential to accommodate the current marketplace. We hope to have a plan to present to the community in the next few months.”
Stavney points out the fact that RED is still out there doing business and operating regional shopping centers around the country.
“They spent $19 million for the land and then put in more money for planning,” he said. “You don’t spend $30 million unless you think something is viable.”
Stavney said he continues to discuss a future plan with RED representatives.
“That project is planned in such a viable place for commercial development,” he said. “In spite of everything that has happened with the national economy, the location is still accessible and visible.”
A little more than two years ago, the Eagle Town Board approved a 837-unit residential project for the a 660-acre Haymeadow parcel located just south of the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink. After that approval, a referendum petition drive collected signatures calling for the issue to go to a townwide vote, but a court challenge questioned the validity of the petitions. Ultimately, after a formal hearing, a judge rejected the petitions and killed the referendum effort — clearing the way for construction to begin. It hasn’t.
Stavney said Haymeadow’s development team has indicated to the town that no movement is planned for 2016.
“Something significant changed in terms of the urgency for this project,” Stavney said. “We don’t really know what that’s about.”
Stavney noted that there has been some work at the property, including Haymeadow’s successful grant application with Colorado Parks and Wildlife for fencing.
Rocky Mountain Pure
The Denver-based Colorado Cannabis Co. no longer plans to come to Eagle.
In January 2014, Rocky Mountain Pure proposed a $5-million, 6,000-square-foot retail marijuana facility and a 22,500-square-foot grow house in Eagle. The operation also called for a 45,000-square-foot green house, a 3,600-square-foot extraction laboratory, 12,000 square feet of “other commercial space” and a 3,750-square-foot “prohibition museum.” By June 2014, that plan had been scaled back to a 28,000-square-foot marijuana operation that would include retail sales, cultivation, an infused product kitchen, an extraction laboratory and a research and development facility.
In February of this year, the Eagle Town Board approved a development permit for Rocky Mountain Pure’s medical and retail operation at 1125 Chambers Ave.
Six special use permits consisting of medical and retail sales of marijuana, medical and retail grow and medical- and retail-infused products were approved for the location.
Stavney said since that time, Rocky Mountain Pure and the partnership that planned the actual building have parted ways. Rocky Mountain Pure has opted to concentrate its efforts on its Front Range operations and ILB Partners are looking for a different retail/medical marijuana operation to take over the site.
“From the town’s perspective, it is different people, same program,” said Stavney.
The town will have the opportunity to investigate any new potential retail or medical marijuana operators before the project proceeds and a new group has not yet been identified. In the meantime, Sweet Leaf Pioneer remains the sole medical and retail marijuana operation in Eagle.
“The marijuana occupation tax ($5 per transaction) is being collected; it’s on track to bring in $100,000 this year,” Stavney said. “Additionally the operation pays sales tax that is on par with what is collected at some of the more successful restaurants in town.”
In March, the Eagle Town Board approved plans for a 15,000-square-foot Village Market store at Eagle Ranch in an area zoned commercial along Sylvan Lake Road behind the commercial buildings that front Capitol Street. The site plan calls for 65 parking places at the front of the building and the structure itself would sit in an area that is now a parking lot. A loading dock would be located at the rear of the business, which would be on the north-facing side of the structure.
While the plan netted the support from several Eagle residents, neighboring property owners protested the proposal, citing traffic, noise and visual impact issues. Construction has not yet started.
“The development team is working earnestly on the project,” said Stavney. “They have a lot of issues to work through.”
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.