Daily Editorial: What’s worth saving | VailDaily.com

Daily Editorial: What’s worth saving

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Idyllic riverfront property in Eagle apparently doesn’t deserve to be open space, but a gravel pit in the county’s urban center sure does.

Or maybe what makes land worth preserving in the county commissioners’ eyes has more to do with who wants to save it, instead of how unique the land really is or how that land could be used best.

In the case of the old gravel pit called Eaton Ranch, the county commissioners were urged by two powerful county stakeholders ” the Homestead neighborhood in Edwards and the Vail Valley Foundation ” to drain almost two year’s worth of open space tax collections for the purchase. That $12 million deal ” half of which was funded with our tax money ” took 72 acres of land prime for affordable housing development off the table.

Meanwhile, the so-called Green Bridge deal, which would have preserved 5 acres of land on both sides of the Eagle River east of Eagle, is all but dead.

County officials ” who at one time wanted to partner with the town of Eagle on the $5 million deal ” decided at the last minute that the land wasn’t worthy of county open space funds.

Because of the land’s steep embankment into the river, the nd wouldn’t be that accessible to the public, said Commissioner Sara Fisher.

That stipulation doesn’t apply to every open space purchase, however. Bair Ranch and the McNulty Ranch are off-limits to the public, too. Both are working ranches ” private businesses ” that sought the tax breaks that come with giving up any chance of being developed in the future. The county spent about $2 million to preserve each of the ranches, not that you can go traipsing across them, either.

Much of the five-acre Green Bridge parcel is undevelopable, anyway, county officials say. The county is betting that few developers would be interested in the land.

Perhaps that’s a good gamble to make.

But given our county’s pressing need for affordable housing ” and few ideal places to build it ” we wonder if spending $6 million to keep a gravel pit off the market, while stopping short of saving land that should never be developed, are such smart decisions after all.

” Tamara Miller for the Editorial Board

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