Eagle big-box plan hits snag | VailDaily.com

Eagle big-box plan hits snag

Kathy Heicher
Special to the DailyArtist's rendering of the Eagle River Station shopping center and residential proposal.

EAGLE – Developer Vince Riggio was undoubtedly hoping his big commercial project, Eagle River Station, would get a quick trip through the Eagle Planning Commission last week and move onto the Town Board. However, the Planning Commission’s abrupt denial of the project caught everyone off-guard. After a two-hour hearing, the commission, which reviews projects for the Town Board, voted 4-1 to recommend denial of the project. The board offered no comment or explanation for its decision.Planning Commissioner Scott Turnipseed, who made the motion to deny, declined to talk about the decision, saying he didn’t feel comfortable talking to the press.”They (the developers) could probably read the 14 pages of staff recommendations, if they want to know,” he said. “I think it was fairly clear after listening to the staff report.”Eagle River Station is a mixed-use project on 100 acres of what is now pasture land east of Chambers Avenue in Eagle. Riggio is proposing to develop 557,000 square feet of retail commercial space, including some mid-size box stores, plus a 300- to 400-room hotel. Riggio is proposing a “lifestyle center”-type shopping development, a mall-like arrangement where stores are accessed from the outside. The project also includes some housing and a private school.The Town Planning staff had written a 17-page memo listing concerns about the project, and suggesting that the application be revised. Town Planner Bill Gray acknowledged that Eagle River Station focuses on the town’s commercial goal, by capturing sales and property taxes. The town’s primary source of revenue is sales tax.However, the planning staff also identified a long list of concerns, including:• Lack of affordable housing. The project would generate an estimated 1,850 jobs. The concept plan calls for 100 market-rate residential units, but no affordable housing.• Inadequate open space. The development proposes two acres of open space, instead of the 20 acres that would be required by the town’s regulations.• Impacts of the project to business in downtown Eagle. Gray said the Eagle River Station, as proposed, replicates a downtown image.• A need for a transportation plan that would include bike and pedestrian paths and mass transit.Planning Commission members were at a bit of a loss to explain their decision.”I’m in a little bit of shock myself. I voted with the majority, but I was caught a little off-guard,” said Planning Commission Chairman Rick Dunford.One factor in the quick vote may have been the persistent talk that the project will go to a referendum vote, regardless of what decision the town makes, Dunford said. .”The bottom line question is, do we need a lifestyle center, which is a fancy name for a mall, in Eagle? That’s why I think it has to go for a (citizen) vote,” said Dunford. “The project is so big, and has such an impact on the town – maybe it should go to the voters.”Town regulations require that after a Planning Commission vote, the project moves on to the Town Board within 30 days. Assistant Town Planner Yuri Kostik said town staff will return to the Planning Commission next week seeking more information behind the reasons for the vote.Efforts to contact Riggio for comment before deadline were unsuccessful. However, his community liaison, Paulo Narduzzi, sent an e-mail out after the Planning Commission stating a door had been “slammed” on the project. Narduzzi’s e-mail also stated the development team has made specific changes in the plans to reflect public input.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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