Eagle-area landowner protests master plan provision
EAGLE, Colorado –After three years of discussion, debate and draft revisions, the Eagle Area Community Plan is on the cusp of formal adoption. But one of the provisions contained in the document have some Eby Creek landowners upset.
The Eagle Area Community Plan is the master plan for the town of Eagle and outlying areas adjacent to the town, which are governed by Eagle County. The plan seeks to define the type and location for future development. It also includes growth boundaries that delineate a recommended cut-off point for future development. The original plan was drafted in 1996 and the current plan is a revision of that document.
The crux of the issue is density and zoning. In the 1980s, Eagle County designated approximately 600 acres located along Eby Creek with rural residential zoning, which would allow development of up to one unit per two acres. The new Eagle Area Community Plan designates those areas with 35-acre agricultural zoning.
Gary Gilman, an Eby Creek property owner, has formally protested that decision.
“I personally participated in many of the prolonged Eagle Area Master Plan revision meetings approximately two years ago in which a few individuals were lobbying to down-zone certain parcels outside the town’s current boundaries,” wrote Gilman in an April 17 letter to the planning commission, the Eagle County Commissioners and the town of Eagle. “I voiced my concerns over these ideas as equaling a taking of the land from current property owners.”
Gilman further claims that he was led to believe the rural residential zoning would remain on his property. He said he was unhappily surprised to find 35-acre, agricultural zoning applied to his property in the latest master plan draft.
“We did not purchase this property speculatively with the hopes of changing or up-zoning the property, but with the complete confidence and trust in our local government that existing zoning would be recognized and not be removed,” he wrote.
Eagle County Planning Commission member Bill Heicher agreed the new master plan envisions agricultural zoning of the Eby Creek area, but denied that it represents a land-taking. Heicher said that while the higher, rural residential zoning implies additional development opportunities, actual vested rights (legally recognized property rights) are not conveyed with zoning.
Heicher argued that the county erred by designating zoning in the area without specific development plans being presented for the properties. In the case of future development on Eby Creek, landowners would have to present subdivision plans and those proposals will determine density, regardless of zoning designations, he said.
Heicher also argued that the master plan itself is not the county’s or town’s zoning plan.
“We are not changing zoning at all, this is not a zoning document – it is a master planning document,” said Heicher. As such, he argued that it is in the best interest of all citizens to be very clear about future development desires and the current desire is to limit residential grow north of the Eby Creek Mesa subdivision.