Eagle River Meadows decision may be Jan. 11 | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Meadows decision may be Jan. 11

Scott N. Millersmiller@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Curtline: This 3-D conceptual drawing of Eagle River Meadows at Edwards shows building only on the south side of the Eagle River. A road is in the drawing just to show what it might look like if building on the north side of the river is approved.

EAGLE, Colorado – After months of hearings, there may be a first answer on the question of Eagle River Meadows early next month.The Atira Group, which has proposed building homes and a 260,000 square-foot medical campus on the site of the old B&B Excavating gravel pit at Edwards, has been working with county officials for more than 18 months on the first of three needed approvals – “sketch plan.” The county commissioners have been working on the proposal since early summer.Some residents believe the proposed development could revitalize the local economy; others believe it’s simply too much building for the site, or that the developers’ claims for the economic power of “medical tourism” won’t pan out.”I don’t see how a major medical development fits here,” Dr. Wally Chipman said. “As a keystone of commercial development, I don’t see the need.”But Avon resident Suzanne Hoffman-LeBlanc disagreed.”Medical tourism is a burgeoning industry,” Hoffman-LeBlanc said. “What we have there now is a gravel pit .”Edwards resident Don Cohen sat at the presenter’s table with developer Lance Badger to lobby for the medical center plan. Cohen, director of the Economic Council of Eagle County, launched a long defense of the plan, and said medical businesses might not be limited to just clinics.”This health campus could become home to developers and distributors who aren’t tied to any one location,” Cohen said.While much of the discussion covered old ground, there were some new twists. The biggest was Badger’s offer to dramatically cut the number of housing units on the property. The original plan called for 380 units built on both the north and south sides of the Eagle River. The latest proposal is for 180 units.Working toward the idea of actually voting on the proposal soon, the commissioners started talking about their worries and skepticism.Commissioner Sara Fisher said her biggest worry is that giving initial approval to the plan would back the board into a corner regarding future approvals.Fisher said during her time taking board minutes as Eagle County Clerk and Recorder she’d seen numerous examples of developers using their initial approval to stick to too-high levels of building, even when subsequent facts indicated less building would be more appropriate.”Our hands are tied to a certain extent to the plan we approve at the sketch plan level,” Fisher said.But Commissioner Jon Stavney said many of the questions being asked at the current hearings are more appropriate for the next level of approval, “preliminary plan.””I really think this is about approving a new vision for this valley,” Stavney said. “I’m ready to send you back to pulling some of the (missing) pieces together… And I’ve got no problem putting a big knife into this project at the next level.”Whether or not that happens will depend on how well Badger and his group are able to meet the roughly 30 conditions the commissioners are expected to attach to the sketch plan approval.Fisher and Commissioner Peter Runyon said they would be willing to hash out those conditions, and both said they would also be willing to deny the project at the next level of approval.With that caution to Badger, the commissioners will start hashing out those conditions at a meeting set for Jan. 11. And, Stavney said, he’s ready to move on.”We owe the public a decision on this,” he said.

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