Eagle asked to annex land along the river | VailDaily.com

Eagle asked to annex land along the river

Red Mountain Ranch would add 2.3 miles of river frontage to the town

Merv Lapin's proposed Red Mountain project would be 75 percent open space and parks, and add 2.3 miles of Eagle River frontage to the town of Eagle.
Special to the Daily

Red Mountain Ranch

  • 130 acres along the Eagle River east of Eagle’s town boundary
  • 75 percent open space and parks
  • 3 miles of river frontage
  • Pubic fishing and boating access
  • 154 maximum number of units over seven planning areas
  • Average of 1.1 units per acre
  • 75-foot setbacks from the Eagle River’s high water point
  • Elk and deer migration corridors
  • 15,000 square feet of commercial space
  • One restaurant
  • Community space
  • 15 acres for an educational facility, possibly a Walking Mountains Science Center campus.
  • 3 acre town park and boat ramp
  • Connections to the ECO trails by two Highway 6 underpasses
  • The entire project would be finished by 2029
  • Eagle’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval, with some conditions.

EAGLE — It was a cold, dark night in 1966 when Merv Lapin pulled off U.S. Highway 6 in an upstart crossroads calling itself Vail. Lapin was on his way to Aspen and wandered into the Vail Village Inn for a break. He struck up a conversation, as folks will do, and basically the people running the VVI wouldn’t let him out the door until he agreed to go to work for them.

Like so many of us, Lapin thought Vail might be just a stop along life’s trail. Like so many of us he never left.

A few years later, 1982, Lapin, an investor and entrepreneur by nature, bought part of the Horn Ranch from Leonard Horn and Judge Bill Jones. Over the years he has proposed all sorts of ideas for the land, located east of Eagle along the Eagle River, including a big box store.

This week Lapin and his team proposed Red Mountain Ranch, a 130-acre low-density real estate development they want to annex into the Eagle on the town’s eastern border.

Good things often come to those who wait, and the town’s planning staff generally likes the idea, saying it meets the town’s updated community plan and Eagle River corridor plan.

75 percent open space

More than 75 percent of Red Mountain Ranch would be parks and open space, said private planner Rick Pylman, who’s helping put the project together with Lapin.

It would add 2.3 miles of Eagle River frontage to the town, along with public fishing access and a boat ramp. That boat ramp would be just upriver from Eagle’s new water park, Lapin said.

“Eagle’s No. 1 asset is the river,” Eagle Mayor Anne McKibbon said during Pylman’s presentation.

Red Mountain Ranch would also have a spot for a restaurant along the river, and an area for public events like a farmers market.

In keeping with Eagle’s community plan, the bulk of the housing would be closest to town — townhomes and similar units — and get less dense as it moves further east.

Lapin also wants to give 15 acres to Walking Mountain Science Center for a campus in Eagle. He said he had planned to build his personal home as part of those 15 acres, but thought better of it.

“It’s very environmentally sensitive, so we approached Walking Mountains with the idea of an Eagle campus and a tourist destination for the town,” Lapin said.

Markian Feduschak, president of Walking Mountains, was delighted by the gift.

“We are grateful to Merv Lapin for his partnership and very thankful for his generous gift of land and we are very excited for the opportunities this exceptional field site offers. We are looking forward to collaborating with local schools to ensure unparalleled educational experiences at a down valley location very close to many of our local school children,” Feduschak said.

Another 25 acres will remain open to protect potential migration corridors by which deer and elk access the Eagle River.

Some of the land will remain zoned for agriculture, and will likely be a pasture where deer and elk will be free to graze, Lapin said.

Eagle County has a policy that if there are resources under the land, such as gravel, they should be extracted before it’s developed. In keeping with that county policy, part of the land is a former gravel operation.

Experience matters

Merv and his wife Laine tend to appear calm as they sit through Eagle planning commission and town board meetings while their project is being dissected. They’ve been through this before.

The planning commission unanimously recommended approving Red Mountain Ranch on a 7-0 vote.

Over the years, Lapin has dealt with five town managers and countless board of trustee members.

Lapin tried unsuccessfully to put a big box store on land he owned at the time. In 2007 he sold 100 acres to the developers of the proposed Eagle River Station. It took two tries and a recession for Eagle voters to approve ERS, but that project fizzled.

Two years ago they started in earnest trying to annex the 130-acre Red Mountain Ranch into Eagle’s eastern boundary.

Last Tuesday was their first presentation to Eagle’s town board. It will return to the board in April for another public hearing.

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