Eagle River Station to get public vote | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Station to get public vote

EAGLE – The residents of Eagle will get the final say about the future of Eagle River Station.

On Wednesday night in a split vote, the Eagle Town Board approved the controversial proj-ect but tied that approval to the outcome of a special election that will be held on Jan. 5. That action culminated a three-year-long review process for the develop-ment.

After months of listening to what consultants, staff, develop-ers and members of the public thought about the plan, members of the Town Board aired their positions about Eagle River Sta-tion. Town Board member Scot Hunn presented a 38-page Power-Point presentation to detail his opposition, while fellow board member Mikel “Pappy” Kerst offered some of the most concise comments of the evening.

“Like any other development that’s come along, it’s a gamble,” Kerst said. “I support a referen-dum. I can live with whatever the people decide.”

That was a sentiment echoed by Town Board members Roxie Deane, Kraige Kinney, Stephen Richards and Mayor Ed Woodland.

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Kinney supported the develop-ment, saying it represents a realis-tic method for Eagle to increase its revenue base. He also pushed for a citizen referendum on the proposal.

Deane pointed to sections of Eagle’s master plan that say regional retail should be located along the Interstate 70 corridor. She noted that her 14 years on the board – a previous term as a Town Board member and two terms as Eagle mayor – have giv-en her a clear understanding of the community’s difficult finances and dependence on sales tax.

“I want people to spend their money here,” she said.

“I support a referendum. Let the people decide,” Deane added. Woodland offered some of the most outspoken comments of the evening. He said Eagle River Sta-tion represents a way for the com-munity to capture sales tax dollars it currently loses to neighboring towns.

“When people say, ‘I don’t shop in town,’ the translation is ‘I don’t invest in the community,'” he said. Woodland challenged the notion that Eagle River Station represents an irrevocable change for Eagle.

“Am I going to enjoy the moun-tains less?” he said. “Is a shopping mall going to take that away? No.” Hunn and board member Yuri Kostick cast the only votes opposed to Eagle River Station. Citing several areas where he believes the project conflicts with Eagle’s master plan, Hunn criti-cized the “unimaginative design,” saying it represents an inefficient, expensive and wasteful use of land that will not benefit the town. He also questioned whether the financial package will provide Eagle with the revenues it needs.

“The deal is too risky for the town and is skewed in favor of the outside developer and national retailer tenants,” Hunn said.

He concluded by saying Eagle is a unique community that should work to find a better solution for its future needs.

“I definitely think this is a fabu-lous spot for development,” Kostick said. “I’m certainly not opposed to development, but I am opposed to this development.” Noting the changes in the national economy, Kostick ques-tioned the entire Eagle River Sta-tion premise.

“I’m afraid this is an outdated concept before it’s even built,” he said.

Both Kostick and Hunn also voted against sending the issue to the voters. Kostick noted the Eagle River Station plan is a complicat-ed proposal that has taken years to review. He questioned if an election would simply turn into a popularity contest.

And both men voiced their strong objections to the proposed ballot question, saying it repre-sented the town advocating for the project rather than simply inform-ing the voters about the plan. The ballot question includes a list of possible municipal improvements that could be undertaken with Eagle River Station revenues.

“I am going to go down swing-ing on this one. This is ridiculous ballot language,” Hunn said.

Ultimately the ballot question passed with Woodland adding his vote in opposition.

The Jan. 5 referendum will be a polling-place election for resi-dents of the town only. People will be able to request absentee ballots prior to Election Day.

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