Eagle County comes to a fork | VailDaily.com

Eagle County comes to a fork

Don Rogers

Eagle County Commissioners Peter Runyon and Arn Menconi have dropped a Boulderesque depth charge with their push for a building moratorium.This freeze would not affect the towns, just county land like Edwards, Wolcott, Eagle-Vail (any room left there?). And it would be temporary. Long enough to work down property already approved for construction and set a handful of other growth-slowing land use regulations into place.Besides, Runyon says, the county today has 16,000 homes approved to be built. Some critics call the figure misleading – the now mostly defunct Adams Rib project, for instance, accounts for over 3,000 of those units that Runyon cites, and they will never be actually built. Still, Runyon is correct in asserting that it’s the deeper future for Eagle County that’s mostly at stake. Not so much today, but years from now.The freeze technically would be on “up-zoning,” which in the extreme could mean only “affordable” housing might be approved until the surplus of already approved lots for building has diminished, according to Land Use Policy in Eagle County, Part II, June 30, 2005.According to the document, the package also might include “down-zoning” to increase the minimum size of property that could be built on, defining growth boundaries, prohibiting development in “critical wildlife habitat,” keeping houses off ridgetops, and creating development rights that could be transferred or sold. The document outlines other green building regulations and agreements with towns in an attempt to shape how Eagle County is developed from here.The intent is to preserve and improve recreational, scenic, wildlife, air and water quality. That’s a laudable goal. Critics will contend – loudly – that other values will fall by the wayside: individual property rights, economic, employment. And housing costs will really take off. It’s worth noting that even with Eagle County’s traditionally freer hand with development than, say, Pitkin or Boulder counties, the housing prices have risen nearly as much here.This should be quite a debate over the best ways to shape Eagle County’s future. Make no mistake: If you live here, the ultimate decisions about land use will have a profound effect on you. You might want to study up and get your two cents in. We’re talking about your home – and your life here – after all. Vail, Colorado

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