County’s future debated |

County’s future debated

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyTara Klaers of Edwards said county leaders should continue to support affordable housing developments, like Edwards' Miller Ranch.

EDWARDS ” OK, so it’s not Los Angeles. Still, the traffic in Edwards is getting on Todd Klaers’ nerves.

He can remember a time when he had no problem zipping along U.S. Highway 6 and up and down the Spur Road, Edwards’ main thoroughfare. When he complains about how long he has to wait at an intersection these days, Klaers is immediately reminded by a breakfast companion just how good Eagle Countians have it. Try driving through Denver during rush hour, for example.

“That’s why I don’t live in a city,” he said. “If I have to sit at a stoplight for five minutes …”

County leaders share Klaers’ concern. Eagle County has a master plan ” a document that shows where development should go ” and a long list of land-use regulations that are supposed to help the county grow the way residents want it to. But things don’t always go according to plan. Edwards, in particular, is growing faster than most people predicted. The Board of County Commissioners now wants to look at the big picture and make some changes to its land-use regulations.

According to the Colorado state demographer’s projections, the county’s population will be nearly double to 80,000 people by 2025. The county has just under 50,000 people now. Those projections concern Commissioner Arn Menconi.

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“I’m interested in preserving the quality of life here,” Menconi said during a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners last week.

Determining what makes life so great in Eagle County is part of the question.

Learning from the past

Things have changed here, Klaers and his wife, Tara, can attest to that. Todd moved to Eagle County in 1988. Tara moved here in 1999. Both say they were attracted to the laid-back rural mountain lifestyle, the outdoor playground that surrounds all of the Eagle Valley towns, and the chance to spend the morning at an outdoor cafe surrounded by green alpine forests and clear, blue skies ” which they did on a recent Sunday.

All of those things aren’t necessarily gone, yet (though it depends on who is talking), but there’s a Wal-Mart SuperCenter and a Home Depot in Avon now. Nearly 1,800 acres of mountain side south of Minturn has been tagged for a ski resort and golf community. And homes ” particularly large ones ” are popping up everywhere.

There are a lot more cars on county roads, too.

The Klaers, who live in Edwards’ Miller Ranch neighborhood, aren’t so sure that’s a good thing. Tara’s fine with the “big box” stores that are in Avon, as long as they stay in Avon.

“I just don’t want it in my backyard,” she said.

Tara is pleased that the county commissioners have pledged $6 million to help purchase and preserve Eaton Ranch, a 72-acre piece of property along the Eagle River in west Edwards. Officials with the Vail Valley Foundation, the nonprofit organization leading the fundraising effort, have until Sept. 1 to come up with $12 million to purchase the land. The group announced last month they had $10 million in pledges so far, but Todd thinks a developer will step in with a bigger offer and kill the open space deal.

“Money talks,” he said.

Real estate prices are soaring as more and more second-home owners buy homes here, Todd said. That pushes home prices out of reach for working, local residents.

“I’ve lived here for 15 years and I just bought a home a year ago,” he said, adding that housing prices are getting worse.

Ensuring the county’s workforce has a place to live is a priority, Menconi said. Preserving the rural, mountain lifestyle and Eagle County’s ranching heritage also is important, said Commissioner Peter Runyon. The needs and desires of new residents haven’t meshed well with those goals, he said.

“The problem with the new population is they like to look at the mountains, but that doesn’t mean they value it,” Runyon said during last week’s meeting.

They still want the urban conveniences of “big box” stores, like Avon’s Wal-Mart and Home Depot, he said.

There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, Commissioner Tom Stone said.

“Just because some people here have a different view of life than you do doesn’t make them any less of a resident of the county,” Stone said.

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or

Vail, Colorado

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