Eagle approves big shopping center | VailDaily.com

Eagle approves big shopping center

Kathy Heicher

EAGLE – With Costco rumors nipping at their heels, the Eagle Town Board turned suddenly decisive Tuesday evening, voting 6-1 to tentatively approve the Red Mountain Ranch development. A formal vote on the annexation and zoning will take place on June 14.However, the terms of the approval are not quite what developer Merv Lapin was seeking for his big-box commercial project on the east edge of town. The board specified that the development must include a single, national retailer capable of generating an average of at least $80 million in annual sales. Lapin said the vote will allow him to vigorously pursue a deal with Costco; but at the same time, some of the conditions will limit his bargaining power. Lapin expressed doubt if he could bring in the project with the conditions imposed.Citizens of Eagle will have an opportunity to weigh in on the development approval. The town trustees unanimously agreed to put the Red Mountain Development question to voters as a binding referendum. The election will be a mail-ballot, and will likely take place in 60 to 90 days.Mayor Jon Stavney also indicated that the towns of Eagle and Gypsum are still working out the details of a sales tax revenue-sharing agreement. He said there was urgency in a decision on the project, which has been in the town’s review process since October.”The retail landscape has shifted. It appears a major retailer is very close to making a decision,” said Stavney. Stavney says town leaders got the word last week that Costco had sent a letter of intent to Gypsum declaring its intention to locate a store in that community. Board members were hearing rumors town of Gypsum had offered Costco $5 million and fast-tracking building permits to come there.Not so, said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll on Monday, who was flooded with phone calls from inquiring citizens over the weekend. “We don’t have anything. I think Costco is kicking tires everywhere, and they’re kicking some in Gypsum,” he said.Discussion at the Eagle Town Board meeting and a work session last week indicated a number of the board members aren’t real certain about what they want to see at Red Mountain Ranch. Within several hours of discussion, several board members flipped-flopped on their votes. The board seemed to be together on terms of cost sharing of improvements with the developer, and on conditions for acquisition of about a two-and-a-half mile stretch of property along the Eagle River. However, they wavered several times over whether to stipulate the first phase of the project should have a single, major retail anchor or several retail anchors. Board members also waffled on how much average annual sales should be demanded of those anchors.Lapin lobbied for a condition that would allow multiple anchors, with at least $40 million in annual sales. He said that would give him flexibility in negotiating and would allow him to pursue a “lifestyle center” project (similar to Aspen Grove on the Front Range) if the big-box deal doesn’t happen.At one point, the board appeared to endorse the $40-million proposal, drawing an angry response from audience member Jan Rosenthal-Townsend. She lives outside of town, but is a downtown business owner who has been a vocal opponent of the project.Both she and audience member Tim Cochrane criticized the board for backing off the $80-million, single-anchor condition.”I support the $80-million, single-anchor. That’s what we, as the public, have been pitched,” said Cochrane.Rosenthal-Townsend chastised the board for “waffling and wavering.” She said the public had been told that a smaller project wouldn’t work.”There will be a referendum, and there will be a recall,” she said.Town Manager Willy Powell cautioned the Board that a recent community survey showed a high citizen demand for more shopping opportunities locally.”This isn’t just a sales tax deal. Sales tax is important … but people want more shopping in the community,” he said. “The totality of the deal is good for the town.”After several back-and-forth votes, the Board voted 6-1 to sick with the $80-million, single-anchor scenario. Paul Witt cast the dissenting vote.Lapin voiced his frustration in negotiating with the Board.”This deal was put together with the lowest common denominator. Each of you has a different issue,” he protested. “Why do you care? If the (annual) sales are $20 million, it’s more than you have now.”Vail, Colorado

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