Eagle can do better | VailDaily.com

Eagle can do better

Jan Rosenthal Townsend
Vail CO, Colorado

We would like to respond to some recent letters to the editor written by Mark Jordan, Charlie Wick and Jay Willoughby regarding the growth in Eagle, the Eagle Area Community Plan and Eagle River Station.

We, The Citizens for the Future of Eagle, formed a “visioning” committee in December 2006 made up of a variety of concerned residents and business owners who want to collaborate with the citizens, the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, the town of Eagle and Eagle County.

We have developed a few short and long-term ideas that will stimulate Eagle’s economy and enhance its sense of community while retaining its small-town character.

Some initial ideas are: 1)Expansion and revitalization of downtown with new zoning, infill and investment opportunities for both downtown and along the Highway 6 corridor. We envision a pedestrian/bike bridge from the north Broadway area, (along with a rail station hub there) feeding into the county fairgrounds. There’s great opportunity for smart, complimentary growth there, including the creation of affordable housing, schools and facilities with community events at the new Eagle River Center and recreational opportunities along the Eagle River. 2) Create events that enhance the sense of community and stimulate the economy and generate more sales tax. Large events target regional participants and attendees who come, spend money and leave ” without putting a permanent burden on the infrastructure. 3) Host sports races/recreational events ” there are a host of outdoor races and activities that would benefit Eagle, including mountain bike, snowshoe, nordic and skate ski races and a whitewater park located at the fairgrounds. 4) Encourage wildlife viewing ” hundreds of elk make their home right here in Eagle. We envision capitalizing on this beautiful natural resource by making visitors aware (via signs on I-70) that there is elk viewing in east Eagle and up Brush Creek. 5) Expand/use infill development on Chambers Avenue. We need to get creative with builders and developers to stimulate ideas and create opportunity for office, residential and retail all along Chambers.

The 1996 Eagle Area Community Plan did envision regional shopping in east Eagle, but it was for 60 to 80 acres, not 100-plus.

It is also important to note that since 1996, a lot of change and growth has occurred. Market conditions (past, current and future) have to be taken into careful consideration with a proposal this large. Traer Creek at Avon has 1 million square feet available. Glenwood Springs opened a regional center with several big boxes and various national chain stores ” some businesses have already gone out of business there. Eagle’s Nest, a newly approved center located on East Chambers (with up to 100,000 square feet of retail space) hasn’t even broken ground yet.

Another thing we tend to forget about is that Sept. 11 is still affecting the national retail market.

And most importantly, where will the 2,000-plus employees come from?

Recently, the town’s planning and zoning commission voiced concerns that Eagle River Station, with its density and lack of open space, was not meeting several important criteria within the 1996 Eagle Area Community Plan plan.

The plan says “concentrate development in and around the town of Eagle, maintaining the existing small, town, non-resort atmosphere of the town.”

The development would create its own population of 1,500-plus people living there. That’s a small town unto itself!

About 150 people spoke out at the recent Eagle Area Community Plan open house saying they wanted Eagle to remain a small town. It was our interpretation that most wanted smart growth, not necessarily no growth.

Congested roads, pollution, lack of night sky, loss of wildlife, big boxes and high-density housing (in the wrong place) will do nothing to accomplish the goal of remaining a small town.

Eagle River Station’s planner said the developer complies with the town’s plan to diversify the local economy. We believe another shopping center (a sixth shopping district in Eagle) does not even begin to diversify an economy that is mostly made up of retail, construction, real estate and service trades.

We, the Citizens for the Future of Eagle, have been asked “what do we want to see in east Eagle?”

In all honesty, most of us would prefer to see absolutely no development there. Having pasture land at the gateway to town is actually a commodity ” it separates Eagle from the rest of the sprawl that has occurred valleywide. Keeping it as open space could potentially happen if a public/private partnership got together to buy and preserve it.

We certainly don’t have all the answers, nor should those answers be left up to just a few people. However, we believe the community at large should have some say in what happens there, even though that land doesn’t belong to us.

What makes the most sense? What would be successful now and into the future and what could we all compromise on?

A few ideas that have come from various citizens are: 1) Develop 35-acre, clustered ranchettes; 2) Develop a portion of the 80 acres and perhaps bring a national retail entity here that provides something different to the tri-county area ” a Cabellas, a Bass Pro store and/or a Whole Foods-type store; 3 )Target high-tech or medical-related businesses, which would diversify the economy, provide high paying jobs and create future jobs for our children; 4) Build a convention/cultural arts center/hotel; 5) Create an equestrian-related facility with equestrian-based retail, done in an old Western architecture; 6) Some have mentioned organic farming.

The point is, any one of the above ideas seem to be a way better alternative to the massiveness of the Eagle River Station proposal.

The Citizens for the Future of Eagle wants future ideas for Eagle to truly be a collaborative effort. We want that land in east Eagle to be something we can all be proud of. Something that remains different than the rest of the valley and nation ” something that keeps Eagle special and unique.

We welcome all ideas. Write us at noboxineagle@aol.com and share your vision.

Jan Rosenthal Townsend is an Eagle resident and a member of the Citizens of the Future of Eagle. She wrote wrote this column on behalf of the group.

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