Development on the march | VailDaily.com

Development on the march

Matt Zalaznick

If Wal-Mart and The Home Depot weren’t enough to convince every big city expatriate living in East Vail to Gypsum that the valley isn’t immune to the suburban super-sized development they fled, consider The Flagpole.Because the builders did such a good job of discretely tucking the Wal-Mart Supercenter and The Home Depot into the hillside beside Interstate 70, perhaps the shopping center’s managers needed a surrogate billboard cloaked in the stars and stripes. (They deny that, of course.) “When you get to the giant flag, exit the freeway!” You can just hear the radio ads to come, as if Avon’s become another Front Range shopping mecca. “The Village at Avon – home to the largest flag in the Rockies!” The Village of Avon is far from finished, another large commercial complex is proposed for pastures off I-70 just east of Eagle, and the gravel pit and surrounding land in Edwards is under contract for sale to – you guessed it – developers. The gravel pit has even become campaign fodder for one county commissioner, Democrat Peter Runyon, who has made something of a platform of slowing down the growth. Republican rival Richard De Clark, an Edwards resident himself, has been more quietly concerned himself, while questioning the efficacy of a candidate inserting himself so early and prominently into a land sale. Still, Avon’s flagpole debate seems to have punctured a hole in the notion that valley residents are all that concerned about the march of suburbia into this mountain community. A majority may be appalled at the audacity of the giant pole, but at least a vocal minority loves it, even wishes it could be bigger. Years ago Avon, worried about losing control of the giant development looming on its eastern flank, annexed the land where the village will be built. But in annexing the land, the town agreed to hand the developers almost complete control over what could be built in front of the big boxes. Is the same in store for Edwards and Eagle? The developers seeking to buy the gravel pit haven’t said much about what they might build at Edwards’ gravel built, but it won’t be an enormous park.The county is unlikely to blink quite as readily as Avon did, and relinquish so much control over planning and design. But money does talk, for developers and for county leaders eager for tax revenue. Whatever development replaces the pit will no doubt be one that attracts the most dollars from the pockets of Eagle County and beyond. Whether that also includes a giant flagpole, well, we’ll just have to see. Welcome to paradise. M.Z.