Eagle County OKs $1.6M land purchase
EAGLE, Colorado – It didn’t even take 24 hours from the time when the Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee voted to recommend purchase of the former Eagle Auto Recycling and Towing property west of Eagle for the Eagle County Board of Commissioners to financially commit to the $1.6 million deal.
The county’s open space committee voted Monday night to recommend the purchase. In addition to endorsing the purchase, the committee also recommended an expenditure of up to $45,000 for cleanup, grading, shaping and revegetation of the portions of the property that were impacted by salvage yard operations. On Tuesday, the commissioners approved that deal.
The 7.2-acre Eagle Auto Recycling and Towing property is owned by Ralph and Sherrie Seago, and is located north of U.S. Highway 6 at the west entrance to Eagle. The land is situated at the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River.
The county intends to use part of the property for secondary access to the Eagle County Fairgrounds, and the remaining portion of the land will be preserved as open space and will be accessible by the public for fishing and other kinds of recreation.
Because the county envisions two uses for the land, it is dipping into two funds to finance the deal. A minimum of 65 percent of the land will be designated open space, so the county looked to its open space fund to pay that part ($905,056) of the price. The open space fund is generated from a voter-approved open space tax, which specifies that all dollars collected must go to the acquisition and maintenance of open space in the county.
The remainder of the land purchase money will come from the county’s capital improvements fund, along with a $160,000 contribution from the town of Eagle.
Eagle County Planner Cliff Simonton said the county has been looking at the property for some time as open space.
Simonton said the environmental analysis of the site showed it was generally clean, with one exception being a concrete pad that was used as a location to drain fluids from vehicles. There was some contaminated soil found in that area, but Simonton said the problem can be addressed and the maximum budget for the work should run around $50,000.
Both county staff and advisory committee members agreed the largest advantage to the land purchase is that it brings 3,600 feet of creek and river frontage into the open space program.
“This is a unique opportunity to capture the confluence of an area like Brush Creek,” Simonton said. “The nature of the stream through this area is outstanding.”
Because the county has no funding available to build a secondary fairgrounds access at this time, Commissioner Peter Runyon questioned whether all of the money for the purchase could come from the open space fund.
“Why shouldn’t it (the open space fund) fund this completely? It easily could be open space for 10 years,” said Runyon.
He noted that in the future, if the county does build a secondary fairgrounds access through the tract, it could reimburse the open space fund for the value of the land needed. However, commissioners Jon Stavney and Sara Fisher said committing county capital money to the project signals from the beginning that two uses are planned for the site.
“I like how clean it is that the money speaks to our intent,” said Stavney. “I could also argue that having another $800,000 in the open space fund right now is an opportunity, with land values where they currently are.”
The commissioners unanimously approved the plan to split financing for the $1.6 million deal between the open space and capital funds, and directed staff to prepare a memorandum of understanding between the county and the town of Eagle to detail the community’s funding donation and ongoing maintenance agreements.
The county is set to close on the property purchase on May 27.
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