Eagle River Station redux: Town takes a new look at an old, controversial project
Ambitious Eagle project could be part of town’s economic development plan
EAGLE — The search for sales taxes could mean a new look at an old project: Eagle River Station.
To drive its own top line, Eagle will begin bolstering its downtown and other commercial districts, which includes revisiting the defunct Eagle River Station plan.
The staff is working with Kansas City-based RED Development to rezone and update the defunct planned unit development to include commercial zoning, according to Tuesday’s budget presentation.
Ambition and angst
Back in 2012, Eagle’s town board approved the ambitious Eagle River Station plan. At the time, Eagle River Station was to become an 88-acre commercial/residential development on Eagle’s eastern boundary, south of Interstate 70 and north of U.S. Highway 6 in what remain hayfields and pastures. It was to be 582,000 square feet of commercial space and 250 rental units in the first phase. Another 150,000 square feet of commercial space and 300 rental units were to be added in the second phase.
During dozens of hearings, residents were split loudly between those who supported the financial windfall the development would bring and those who said it would destroy Eagle’s soul and small-town character.
Eagle voters narrowly upheld the town board’s decision, giving Eagle River Station the green light.
RED Development was to spend $35 million for public improvements, including $18 million for a new I-70 Eagle interchange.
However, RED Development pulled the plug on the development in May 2015, the first time the company had to do that, RED Managing Partner Jeff McMahon said at the time. He added that the developers were “confident” they would be back.
Resurrecting something like Eagle River Station would include developing a plan and updating the annexation agreement to make it more attractive to a buyer to expand “this important commercial area” the town said in Tuesday’s budget presentation.
Last spring, RED posted a sign on the Eagle River Station property, asking anyone who’s interested to call for information. RED is working on several “exciting opportunities,” McMahon told the Vail Daily in April.
This time around, Eagle and RED are thinking smaller and will renegotiate the annexation agreement so the property is more attractive to a potential buyer, Eagle Town Manager Brandy Reitter said.
“Anyone interested has to start from scratch, which can be risky and expensive. We are hoping we can meet a future property owner halfway so it’s a little more shovel ready if something were to happen with it,” Reitter said.
Projecting 5% more for now
On Tuesday, Eagle’s town board took its first public look at next year’s budget and, generally, it looks pretty good.
Eagle’s finance department said sales taxes, the lifeblood of a town’s revenue stream, are up 10% in 2019. The town is budgeting for a 5% increase next year, about $295,000, Reitter said during Tuesday’s initial presentation for the town’s 2020 budget.
Some of Eagle’s 5% revenue increase could be consumed by rising health insurance costs. Eagle’s health insurances costs are up 4%, but the employee costs will remain unchanged, Reitter said.
Total revenue from all funds is projected at $10,197,257, a 1% increase over 2019, Reitter said.
A public hearing for Eagle’s 2020 budget is scheduled for the town board’s Oct. 22 meeting.
Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors and the district will add two more school resource officers, according to the school district’s 2019-2020 budget book. The district also aised starting pay and gave staffers a 2.3% cost-of-living raise.