Eagle County sued for approving EagleVail workforce housing project
Two EagleVail residents say project doesn’t meet regulations; county claims it does
EAGLE — After failing to stop a workforce housing project in their neighborhood, a couple of EagleVail residents are suing Eagle County for approving it.
Darlene Daugherty and Karl Krueger are suing Eagle County and the county commissioners for approving local businessman Bob Warner’s plan to convert his EagleVail office building into 35 workforce housing units. Their lawsuit, filed in Eagle County District Court, claims the commissioners:
- Exceeded their jurisdiction,
- Abused their discretion, and
- Acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
They claim that the project, which has been referred to as a “boarding house” in county application materials for the proposal, is not allowed in the county’s or EagleVail’s regulations.
In their lawsuit, Krueger and Daugherty claim they are “adversely affected” by the county commissioners decision, “and have no plain, adequate or speedy remedy” besides their lawsuit. They claim the community would be better served if the building was used for some other purpose, such as commercial office space.
In approving the project last September, the county commissioners — Matt Scherr, Kathy Chandler-Henry and Jeanne McQueeney — said the workforce housing project is an allowed use of the building, and that it is “necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Eagle County.”
Under the county’s approval, the building is limited to 42 renters in its 35 units.
“We believe that our project will enable the repurposing of an old building and put workforce housing where it needs to be,” Warner said. “This lawsuit — while the plaintiffs may have the legal right to bring it — has a low likelihood of success. It is more likely intended to delay our project and increase our expense.”
Lawsuit seeks a reversal
Krueger and Daugherty want the courts to reverse the commissioners’ decision to approve Warner’s project, and force the county to pay their legal fees and court costs.
The 10,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1976 at the corner of U.S. Highway 6 and Eagle Road in EagleVail.
Under Warner’s plan, the interior will be remodeled and the exterior will be updated with new windows, siding and stucco to refresh the building’s appearance and to give it a residential appearance.
“The county recognizes that certain neighbors disagree with the finding of the Board of County Commissioners that a boarding house for the Warner property is authorized through a special use permit. Such disagreements are not uncommon in the context of land-use decisions. However, the Board gave a very thoughtful and reasoned decision in this matter and we will defend it accordingly,” Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu said in a written statement.
POA opts out of lawsuit
The EagleVail Property Owners Association is not part of the lawsuit. In a letter, the board told its members that a legal remedy’s chances of success are “not great,” telling its members that it would not get officially involved.
A lawsuit could cost the EVPOA up to $100,000 and mean a 47% increase in member dues, the letter said.
The letter also pointed out that the property owners association has more than 1,450 members, but that “only a portion are directly affected.”
“There is broad sentiment in Eagle-Vail, and Eagle County generally, in favor of solutions to the need for affordable work-force housing. The broad favorable sentiment could adversely affect the outcome of the appeal,” the board’s letter said.
The letter did point out that individuals or groups could pursue any legal avenue they please.
“Lawsuits like this only exacerbate the housing crisis in our Valley, and discourage others like us from being part of the solution,” Warner said. “Like those who will live in our project, most of us arrived in this special valley as young people without a lot to our name. But we were excited to be here and had bright futures in helping to build the community that we have today. Back when I came here, I can’t remember residents not wanting housing for me and others like me in their neighborhoods. We all coexisted, happily for the most part, and we are a better community for it. We are hopeful that the housing our project will provide is one of those first places for those people who will be in our shoes 20 or 30 years from now.”
The county commissioners gave the project final approval in their late September meeting. The EagleVail Property Owners Association letter went out Oct. 16, and Krueger and Daugherty filed their lawsuit Oct. 22.
The two sides begin slogging through the court process early next year.
Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.