Eagle Co. predicts big growth, starts planning | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. predicts big growth, starts planning

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The county is growing, and it’s time to plan ahead, county planners said.

Eagle County planners have compiled a set of maps, data and reports designed to help county and town officials to make future policy decisions.

The program, called Sustainable Communities 2010, quantifies the top problems the growing county faces ” such as identifying how many child-care spots the county has, how many are needed to provide for the population, and how many spots will be needed in a few years and how much it will cost to provide those services.

“The purpose is to share and collect information to assist with public-policy decisions,” said Community Development Director Keith Montag. “There are some things we want to make sure are happening as public policy is formed.”

For example, one of the biggest responses from the survey was that residents wanted buffer space between towns. As part of the program, the county has looked at all the land available for that sort of open space.

If other towns get on board, agreements and decisions can be made that make sure all the towns don’t grow into each other, planners said.

The latest data research from the program provides a county “build-out” scenario. Maps show all the existing development in the county, all the development that is approved but not built, and what the county would look and feel like if it was developed to maximum capacity.

The maps show dots, some indicating 17,700 approved-but-unbuilt buildings, filling up much of the Interstate 70 corridor.

Another component of the program give estimates how much each new resident costs the county in services, such as for road improvements or in health and human services. The cost is more than $1,200 per resident.

Those numbers can be used to evaluate how much the county and towns should be charging new developments.

“We want to use this as a guide for new development so they are ‘paying their fair share,'” Montag said.

The data is based on concerns that residents named in a countywide quality-of-life survey.

According to the survey, residents were most concerned about growth and land-use policies, traffic, protecting the environment, maintaining services, and providing affordable housing.

The next step will be to provide information to other governments and discuss working together with other towns. The county has already presented the program to the school district and Avon.

One of the challenges will be finding money to provide and maintain all the services, commissioners said. Some of the needs named in the program need county funds, while others can be met through grants or other programs and nonprofits.

“Right now raising taxes is not the intent to fund this,” added County Manager Bruce Baumgartner.

Commissioner Arn Menconi said he wants to see how much money the county can find in its existing revenues to start working on the problems.

“What we’ve put out on the table is that if you look at the future, there’s going to be erosion in quality of life because there’s not enough dollars for a community going from a rural to an urban community,” he said. “For me there’s a sense of urgency for this.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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