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Eagle County: How do you handle ‘booming’ valley?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

Issue: Plans for managing future growth in Eagle County

Who they talked to: County community development planners, county manager and housing director.

What they talked about: State demographers project that Eagle County’s population will continue to grow at a booming rate and that soon there will be many more jobs than workers. It is going to be a challenge to deal with urbanization while maintaining the mountain environment that makes the area attractive, planners said.

Also, an ongoing problem will be providing affordable workforce housing where there is limited land.

“We’ve got to find a place to put all these people,” said Community Development Director Keith Montag.

The commissioners and planners discussed both ongoing and future programs for dealing with everything from traffic to housing to open space. Here are a few of the highlights:

– Transportation: Mass transit will definitely be part of the county’s future development, County Manager Bruce Baumgartner said. Right now that may mean expanding the bus system, but in the future that may mean a rail system, he said.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Commissioner Sara Fisher said. “(Transportation) is one of the driving components in the quality of life issues we’re facing today.”

– Eagle-Vail Makeover: The county wants to re-develop Eagle-Vail’s commercial area on U.S. Highway 6, possibly in partnership with the Eagle-Vail Metro District and Property Owner’s Association, which are looking to redevelop the residential part.

That are is one of the last and best opportunities for a walkable, mixed-use community aimed at the local population, planners said. They envision a mix of affordable housing, commercial, retail and service space.

– What will new development look like? The county is also working on design guidelines both for individual areas, such as Edwards, and the entire county. They will provide basic guidelines for what architectural and land design looks like in new developments.

– How much should we grow? The county is thinking about putting a limit on the number of building permits it issues, much like Boulder County does, Montag said. There may also be a limit on how big homes can be on a single lot, a policy that Aspen also has.

Planners also want to do a “build-out visioning exercise,” where they will hire a consultant to gather demographic data for the whole county. They will then project what the county would be like if it were “built out” at low, medium or high levels.

“We want to know, what would it feel like? For example, how long would you sit at a stop light to get through an intersection if the town were built out to a certain level?” Montag said.

What’s next? The commissioners will research and discuss the individual programs and issues over the following months. Besides bringing in a consultant for the build-out scenario, commissioners also would like an economic consultant to advise them on how land development ties into the county’s economic welfare.

While some of the programs discussed were cues taken from other towns and counties, some of the policies the county is considering are untested, Senior Planner Cliff Simonton said.

“This type of resort and second-home growth is unprecedented,” he said.


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