Developers of Red Mountain Ranch project return to Eagle
The developers of Red Mountain Ranch – a mixed use project on the east edge of Eagle that proposes commercial space big enough to accommodate a big box store – are back. The project would be located on 442 acres immediately east of the current town boundary. As proposed, Red Mountain Ranch has three distinct components: a 94.6 acre parcel north of Interstate 70; the 79.2 acre “main meadow” section east of the existing commercial park; and 148 acres of riverfront property located south of U.S. Highway 6 along the Eagle River. In total, the developers propose 340 dwelling units, 450,000 square feet of commercial space, and 177 acres of open space. The bulk of the commercial and housing development would be on the Main Meadow parcel. Most of the land north of the highway would be designated as natural open space; and 38 home sites are proposed on the riverfront parcel. The project will be built in phases.The amended zoning plan, preliminary subdivision plan, and petition for annexation is actually the second step in the review process for Red Mountain Ranch. A conceptual plan for the development was approved by the past Eagle Town Board in December of 2001, with 13 conditions addressing issues such as open space and park designations, the number of houses, and roads. Vail businessman Merv Lapin, the developer of Red Mountain Ranch, said the partnership during the past couple of years has been working on engineering details and changing the plan to meet the conditions imposed by the Town Board. If all things go smoothly, the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission, which advises the board on development projects, could start review of the project next month. The potential for a big-box type retail store has drawn the most attention. Town leaders, concerned the homes could be built before the sales-tax generating commercial development, have stipulated that a major regional anchor tenant be a part of the first phase of the project’s development. “If we are to be successful with a retail operation in that location, it’s important to have a name draw of some kind,” said Lapin. He said several large-scale retail type outlets have expressed an interest in the site at this point, although he would not mention any names.Recruiting a major anchor tenant for a big-box development is a challenge, Lapin indicated. For example, big box outlets won’t typically locate similar stores, such as a Lowes and a Wal-Mart, near each other. The past town board asked Lapin to pursue a Target store. However, Lapin said, Target had an aggressive time schedule that couldn’t be accommodated in the town’s review process. The developer also indicated that he’s found it difficult to compete for an anchor store, given the kind of deal the town of Avon worked out with its big box retailers. In the late 1990s that town forged an agreement with the developers of the property where The Home Depot and Super Wal-Mart are now located that rebated 100 percent of the town sales tax back to the developer until the revenue bonds that funded the infrastructure are repaid. That could take up to 20 years, according to some projections.”We’ve been at a very distinct disadvantage in competing for clients with Avon, because in Avon the developer has that four percent revenue. He can make any kind of sweetheart deal that he wants,” Lapin said. He noted that such a deal probably won’t happen in Eagle.”My guess is we will have to do some type of cost sharing with the town if it’s going to happen,” he said.The other alternative would be smaller scale stores. Or, Lapin said, he could wait until the market or political environment is such that people want the convenience of having large scale retail businesses located in their community.According to Lapin, the town currently receives about $2 million in annual revenues from sales tax and about $200,000 from property tax. The town staff will set a public hearing date for Red Mountain Ranch once the application has been ruled complete.