D.R.: Eaton purchase timely | VailDaily.com

D.R.: Eaton purchase timely

One of my more enjoyable tasks as editor is meeting with folks like Harry Frampton.Harry is always good company, whether cranky about a position Ive taken as pundit, critiquing a publication, or thinking out loud about our community. If you know Harry, you also know he has plenty of opinions and insights. Not to mention a good sense of humor. What Im saying is the guy is an ideal lunchmate for an ADD-riddled newspaper editor. I always leave with plenty to think about, which is exactly why I like talking with him.I personally appreciate that he always seems to have time for me, a middle manager in a modest organization compared to most of his to-do list of contacts. Thats a special quality, in my book. I know that the reality is that hes a busy guy.I also appreciate that we can bump heads pretty directly on issues and still have fun at lunch. And Harry couldnt resist at the end of lunch the other day.He wondered if I knew that the B&B property just west of Eaton Ranch was up for sale. Eaton Ranch, of course, is that 72 acres of mostly still gravel pit at the heart of Edwards that Eagle County and the Vail Valley Foundation bought as open space for $12 million. Harry is the chairman of the foundation board, and the big driver to buy that land and put it under a conservation easement. I probably was the sharpest voice against making the core of the most populated place in Eagle County open space at a high price when there is so much hinterland to be saved. And, ahem, I was speaking as an open-space supporter, sharing a view that was and is pretty widely if quietly held among open-space advocates.I still think that one was a pretty big mistake, and Harry holds to the wisdom of taking that land out of developers play. Fair enough. The land was purchased with half county funds and half donations. Slowly but no doubt surely, it is edging toward a return from quarry to verdant grassland and a nice riverside stretch. I accept that. And Im comforted by the possibility however slight that Harry and company were right.Since then, real estate prices have only shot for the sky. Vail property appraisals, for example, soared 70-something percent in just two years. Edwards was more modest, around 50 percent. Hah!So at the end of lunch, Harry mentioned that the 20 or so useable acres of the B&B property just west of Eaton were on the market for over $20 million. About 80 acres, give or take an acre, of the B&B property are pure wetland. The developable part is where the batch plant sits today.He figures the Eaton Ranch property could sell for $40 million easy if it were not protected, bought at a cost of $6 million to the Eagle County taxpayer. Now, the smart aleck in me would have replied that with a little more brainpower, the county and Vail Valley Foundation could have made nearly that much by buying the gravel pit and selling it to a sensible developer, and then putting all that money into play saving some open space where it makes more sense in the long run to do so. Im certain that the gravel pit could and should be developed with a sizeable greenbelt preserved along the Eagle River running into the wetlands next door. That would be smart growth in a community core AND providence for the greater open space effort.Of course, its also a vision filled with hindsight.But no, the smart aleck did not speak up. Harry made a good point.And he bought.

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