Eagle aims to be ‘most livable community’
EAGLE, Colorado ” For the past two painstaking years, Eagle has been planning for its future.
But finally, the blueprint is ready.
The citizen-driven Eagle Area Community Plan is a master growth policy that attempts to define what the community wants for its future. The community vision is captured in a one-sentence statement: “Eagle will be the most livable community in Eagle County by enhancing the town’s unique identity, its economic vitality and its sense of community.”
The 114-page plan proposes growth boundaries, ideal locations for development and protections wildlife habitat and open space.
The final draft will debut before the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission in two weeks. Because the plan stretches beyond town boundaries, the document is slated for review before the Eagle County Planning Commission beginning in early March.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
These respective hearings mark the finish line for the process that was launched in 2006 and logged more than 10,000 community comments. The plan itself was developed with the assistance of a 20-member community advisory committee and consultant Rebecca Leonard of Design Workshop.
“Based on the board spectrum of debate we had at the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, the plan more than represents a broad spectrum of Eagle,” says Leonard.
Here are some of the people whose voices are reflected in plan and their thoughts on the long-awaited document.
SBHD: Rosie Shearwood: Protect the Brush Creek Valley
Rosie Shearwood moved to the Brush Creek Valley in 1969. She’s been fighting to protect it for 40 years now.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, Shearwood was an active member of the Concerned Citizens of Eagle County, a grassroots group that fought to prevent development of a ski resort on Brush Creek. That effort stretched over decades and the ski area development never happened. There is a state park at the upper ends of East and West Brush creeks instead of condos and ski lifts.
These days, Shearwood keeps an eye on various land use issues in the county, including the Eagle Area Community Plan. She sits through countless hours of public hearings and studies documents. She is paying particular attention to what the master plan spells out for the future of Brush Creek.
“It’s a passion for me. We’ve done so much good (for Brush Creek) over the years, I feel I can’t just sit down and say, ‘There, I did my part years ago.’ It’s an ongoing thing for me,” says Shearwood.
She’s particularly concerned about the herd of elk that winters in the Brush Creek Valley. Whether people consider the elk an amenity or a nuisance, Shearwood says the animals are the community’s responsibility.
For that reason, she would prefer that the plan more clearly spell out strategies for preserving open space for wildlife in the Brush Creek area. Shearwood is part of a citizen group that hired a wildlife biologist to help define the critical wildlife corridors on Brush Creek.
Shearwood is not convinced that the “Conservation Zone” designation on Brush Creek is strong enough to protect wildlife. She says the plan allows homes in the area.
“Obviously, Eagle has a tremendous elk herd … it’s time for the leaders of both the county and town to decide where the safe places for elk are on Brush Creek,” she says.
SBHD: Mike Metcalf: Capturing the values of the community
Mike Metcalf, a archaeologist, has operated a business in Eagle for 30 years. He lives on Brush Creek, just outside of the town boundaries.
Metcalf served on the committee that created the 1996 Eagle Area Community Plan, and again volunteered for the committee that created the current draft.
He says the role of the committee was to listen to the public input, then capture the vision and values that the community identified. That effort, he says, is what led to the open space designations along the Eagle River east of town and on the outer edges of the growth area boundaries.
“When you ask people why they live here, the open space, rural character, outdoor recreation, and wildlife values all come up very high,” he says.
He’s not surprised that some developers are objecting to some of the open space designations. “Obviously, people who have an economic value in developing land the plan designates as open space would be disappointed,” Metcalf notes.
He also says that any plan attempting to accommodate a dozen priorities that include economics, housing, traffic, open space, and wildlife involves considerable compromising.
“If we were only planning for the best use of open space and wildlife, we would have a much different product. When you try to find balance, you’re not going to make everybody happy,” Metcalf says.
SBHD: Merv Lapin: Red Mountain Ranch and proposed senior housing
Merv Lapin has a different opinion about the master plan’s designation of the Eagle River corridor east of Eagle as open space.
Lapin, an owner of the land, is lobbying against making the 148 acres open space. He has proposed 38 single-family lots and a senior housing along the river.
“The only way the senior project gets built is if you give them the land,” says Lapin. And, he argues, the only way he can afford to make that donation is if he can sell other parts of the parcel.
During initial presentations of the Eagle Area Community Plan before the Eagle Town Board, Lapin vigorously lobbied for a “conservation oriented community” zoning on the land. He also protested proposed growth boundaries , saying the line should stretch eastward to include property recently purchased by Eagle County schools.
Several residents have stepped up to support Lapin’s senior housing plan.
“All of my long-term patients, which I guess now includes me, are aging and there’s no place for them to go,” Dr. Jack Eck said during a recent town board meeting. “I feel our aging people deserve a good place to live.”
SBHD: Pat Hammon and Scott Turnipseed: Gatekeepers for the review process
The next step toward adoption of the revised Eagle Area Community Plan is in the hands of Pat Hammon and Scott Turnipseed ” and the advisory boards they respectively chair.
“The fact that the county and the town work together on the plan is unusual. It’s the only town in the county that does that,” says Hammon, chairwoman of the county’s planning commission.
She expects discussion to center around wildlife, open space and zoning. Hammon is particularly interested to see how the zoning designation “conservation oriented community” fares in the review process.
Another potential hot topic is the plan’s growth boundaries. She says drawing the growth lines to coincide with property ownership is a different approach from what the commission has previously seen in areas such as Wolcott, where the growth boundary is more general.
Turnipseed, chairman of Eagle’s planning commission, says parts of the plan are too vague and he would like to see density, land uses and building heights better defined.
“The plan seems to be a fairly good road map for the next 10 years of development,” says Turnipseed. “It says ‘This is where we want to have growth, and not have it in this area.'”
“It’s very hard to look ahead and think what the community is going to be like in 10 years and what we are going to need,” Hammon adds. “We are prepared to meet for as long as necessary to examine the plan.”