Eagle commission discusses changes to comprehensive plan to support more housing
The Planning and Zoning Commission considers changes to the “future land use” section, nearly all of which would support more residential development
Nearly all of these changes centered around one key issue as officials look to the future of the town: housing. More specifically, the proposed changes would seemingly support more affordable and a more diverse array of residential development.
The purpose of the meeting of the Commission, which is an advisory body to the Eagle Town Council, was not to make a decision on whether to execute the changes but rather to review them and advise staff on how to move forward.
The Town Council will hold a public discussion of the changes Sept. 14. The Planning and Zoning Commission will then hold a meeting Oct. 5 to vote to adopt the final proposal, and then the Town Council will vote to ratify that decision Oct. 26.
The first proposal discussed during Tuesday evening’s meeting was to change three properties north of I-70 from being zoned for commercial and light industrial development to ”high-density residential“ developments like apartments or condominiums.
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Eagle town staff have received “numerous requests” to change the zoning of the three properties located on Market Street and Eby Creek Road as there are concerns the area is not commercially viable due to limited visibility from the street, according to a staff report included in the meeting’s agenda.
Staff asked the Commission to consider three things in advising them on how to proceed.
While the proposed change aligns with the town’s goal to provide more diverse housing options in the years to come, the change conflicts with area-specific policies in what the plan calls the “I-70 Influence Character Area.” These policies call for any residential zoning in that area to allow for workforce housing that could support the staff of nearby commercial developments.
The second question is if high-density residential developments are the best use of the area or if it should be zoned as “mixed use,” allowing for both commercial and residential developments.
A full shift to residential would provide more housing but would also reduce the amount of commercial space available along Market Street, a key commercial/industrial development area identified in the comprehensive plan as being important to maintain.
The comprehensive plan identifies the areas of Chambers Avenue, Market Street, Sawatch Road, and Marmot Lane as good areas to reserve for commercial and industrial development.
One of the residents who spoke out during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting said the focus on affordable and high-density housing concerned him as he felt that many people moving into that housing would end up working up-valley.
“Why don’t Vail and Beaver Creek provide their worker housing? It’s not Eagle’s problem,” the resident said. “I’m afraid Eagle will become too crowded and lose the charm it has now.”
Matt Hood, the Commission’s chair, responded to this idea later on in the discussion, saying that while he agreed the town would need to “be careful” with how much land they zone for residential use, Eagle businesses also have a need for workforce housing.
“Yes, the valley as a whole needs housing, but it’s also true that Eagle currently needs housing,” Hood said. “Multiple business owners that I know cannot hire anybody because nobody will end up working here and living here, and that’s not people with businesses in Vail, that’s people with businesses in Eagle.”
This underscores the need to prioritize workforce housing for local businesses and to add language to the comprehensive plan to support this, he said.
Finally, staff asked the Commission to consider the additional steps that may need to be taken to bring these three properties up to the town’s standards for residential areas as outlined in the comprehensive plan.
The plan lists goals to “promote the development of compact neighborhoods in close proximity to public transit options, and allowing increased residential, retail, and mixed-use densities in areas close to transit stops.” It also aims to “ensure efficient multi-modal connectivity between all residential areas and public destinations,” according to the plan.
The properties on Market Street and Eby Creek Road are within half a mile of the Eco Transit bus stop on Eby Creek Road and an I-70 pedestrian bridge would give residents a way to get north of the highway, staff said in their report. However, “public improvements will likely be needed to ensure each property has safe access to the path on the south side of Market Street.”
The next proposed change comes from the developers behind the Haymeadow project, which aims to construct 837 homes in the area just east of the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink, according to Jens Werner, a member of the Haymeadow development team.
The company has asked the town to modify their planned unit development (PUD) agreement to expand an area zoned for medium-density residential land use to allow the construction of 72 multi-family units in the first phase of development set to start in the spring of 2022.
This expansion would modify the boundaries of neighboring land zoned for public/institutional land, which allows for public and civic uses like schools, recreational facilities and government offices, according to the land use portion of the town’s comprehensive plan.
“There are numerous reasons for the ‘ask’ including meeting local market and housing demands now, allowing us to fund future infrastructure and higher level of compliance with area community plans … by clustering higher density nearer town core,” Werner said in an emailed statement.
In making this decision, staff is asking the Commission and the Town Council to weigh the town’s need for more diverse and affordable housing options against its goal to “encourage the enhancement and preservation of recreation and open space.”
The area in question is currently located on Town of Eagle/Eagle County School District property.
Town staff reviewed the Haymaker Trailhead Master Plan and determined that allowing for the changes to the Haymeadow PUD would not significantly impact neighboring open space or trails, according to the staff report.
The Eagle County School District made a similar proposal to change the boundaries of the town’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM) for their property at 61 Mill Road to replace some public/institutional land with medium-density residential to allow for various types of housing.
Another change presented Tuesday concerned a property located near a cemetery at 220 E. Sixth St., which had been mistakenly labeled as public/institutional land.
The final changes to the plan considered by the Commission Tuesday centered around changes to the language used to describe two zoning categories in the section of the comprehensive plan dealing with future land use.
Any land designated as a medium density residential area — of which there are quite a few downtown and in the Eagle Ranch area — is proposed to include multi-family homes and townhomes in addition to “small lot, single-family units” and “duplexes/triplexes.”
The second proposed change is for public/institutional land to list affordable housing developments as a potential “secondary use” with the primary intended use of that land being “public and civic uses” such as schools, recreational facilities and government offices.
Ultimately, the Commission directed staff to “allow for flexibility” in how they craft the language of what is allowed in various land use categories to accommodate Eagle’s changing needs moving into the future.
Community members can make their voices heard on these changes at the Sept. 14 Town Council meeting as well as the Oct. 5 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting and the final Oct. 26 Town Council meeting.
Public comment can also be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com