County denies Edwards road request
EAGLE, Colorado – A commissioner quoted author Joseph Heller. A local businessman quoted Mark Twain. In the end, though Commissioner Sara Fisher relied on wisdom from her mother: “Always have two exits.”
With that in mind, the Eagle County commissioners Tuesday turned down a developer’s request to be exempted from some of the county’s road-building rules. Turning down the road request left the developers thinking about what’s next.
The request to waive some county road standards was just about the only way the commissioners could weigh in on the plan. Developer Michael English wants to build 19 homes on parcels of 35 acres or more on a ranch north of the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards. State law exempts parcels that size from any county review except basic building permit standards.
But the ranch is surrounded by U.S. Forest Service property, and the only way to get to it is via a Forest Service road. Federal rules require the Forest Service to provide access to private land, but are vague as to just what kind of access has to be provided.
County regulations, meanwhile, require a road to any development of more than three homes to meet several requirements. The biggest of those is the requirement for two ways in and out.
The Berlaimont Estates developers said meeting that standard would create a “hardship,” and instead asked for one road, running for just more than five miles into the ranch.
While the road was the matter at hand, several area residents spoke about the development in general.
Mike Thul, owner of the electronics company that bears his name, said the project would bring a much-needed economic boost to the county.
“There’s not a single element in the private sector of this valley that wouldn’t benefit from another 19 high-value families moving in,” Thul said. “Why wouldn’t the county encourage that?”
But Gail Newman, the nearest property owner to the ranch, said the county should uphold its rules.
“You’ve got an inadequate road for ingress and egress here,” Newman said. “I don’t know if I’m for or against this – I have very mixed emotions. But stand by your rules.”
And Lauren Anderson, who lives in the Moonridge subdivision across the street from the Shaw Center, told the commissioners not having two ways into the ranch would have a “huge impact” on the neighborhood.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District would have to fight any fires at the ranch. Chief Charles Moore told the commissioners he still has questions about the availability of water at the remote ranch. He also worried about the time it would take to get crews to the ranch, saying it could be 20 or 30 minutes from the district’s station in Edwards in good weather.
Andy Spielman, the attorney for the developers, offered to make answering questions about water a condition of approval for the road request.
“I’m challenged basing this review on promises,” Fisher said. “If all those items that could potentially be conditions here, why aren’t we looking at a (comprehensive development) plan that allows us to have all this information up front instead of after the fact?”
After the commissioners rejected the road plan, English said he isn’t sure what’s next.
“We’re going to have to review our options,” he said.