Eagle: Senior housing pitched | VailDaily.com

Eagle: Senior housing pitched

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colorado ” It’s a fact that there’s no place in this valley for aging citizens who need an assisted living or nursing home-type facility. Senior citizens are often forced to move away from family and friends when they can no longer live independently.

There’s been some serious exploration into creating such a facility in the past 10 years by Eagle County and private developers. However, the numbers, including acreage and operations’ cost, have stymied progress.

Eagle’s Kunkel family knows the situation well. They recently moved the family’s 88-year-old patriarch, Paul, to a nursing home in Carbondale. The long commute to visit him is taking a toll on his wife and other family members.

“Anybody who grows old in Eagle knows there’s a need for a facility. It’s a long way to Carbondale or any other facility,” says Marlene Kunkel, who is Paul’s daughter-in-law.

She’s particularly concerned about the toll the long drive takes on her mother-in-law.

Developer Merv Lapin says he may have the answer to that situation. Lapin, who is part-owner of a 150-acre stretch of land along the Eagle River immediately east of Eagle, is proposing to donate a portion of that land to a private developer for creation of a complex that will include modest independent living homes, an assisted-living facility, and a nursing home.

But it is not a simple proposal. That land donation and the facilities are tied into Lapin’s desire to develop the entire parcel. In addition to the senior living facilities, he is proposing 38 single-family homes on one-acre lots along the river, with pockets of open space.

“I’m trying to master plan the whole thing to make it work financially,” he says.

Eagle’s growth policies say open space is the preferred use for the riverfront parcel. A year ago, the county and town had agreed to purchase 34 acres of that property (known as the “Green Bridge” property) for open space. However, that deal fell apart after the county backed away from the $5 million price tag. At the time, county officials cited the fact that some of the land was a steep riverbank. They also cited a lack of development pressure for the parcel.

Lapin acknowledges the town’s desire for open space along the river.

“The town had opportunities to get it done that way, but passed up on those opportunities. This is where we’re at now,” he says.

Lapin, whose development projects include much of the commercial area around the Eagle Interstate 70 interchanges, says his philosophy is to try to give back to the community. Several years ago, Lapin was a major contributor to Eagle’s indoor ice rink.

Just recently, he sold an 88-acre parcel of land across from the river acreage to the developers of the proposed Eagle River Station project for about $19 million.

“I try to give back around 10 percent of the profits to the community in which I made the money,” Lapin says.

Lapin is talking with a private, national company that has a “strong interest” ” given free land to work with ” in building and operating the facilities. Lapin wants to accomplish the project without government subsidies.

“In this political environment, I’m trying to avoid the brain damage,” he says.

Money for the project would be generated in part by the sale of the 65 independent-living units that would be placed on 18 acres of the Green Bridge property. Lapin envisions 1,500-square-foot houses with garages, built on one level, on small lots. The units would be priced at $250,000-$300,000. The homes would be sold back to the organization once the owner moves away.

“It will be nice enough that anyone would want to live there,” he says.

Lapin doesn’t have the numbers yet for the assisted-living and nursing-care units, which would be located on an adjacent 14.8-acre parcel.

Lapin will also be seeking approval for a total of 38, one-acre lots for senior family homes on the east half of the parcel, near the Diamond Star subdivision. The overall project includes 53 acres of open space in total, split into several parcels, including land on the south side of the river.

Lapin stresses that several things have to happen to make the project work: the donation of the land, and the sale of the independent-living housing and the single-family lots.

“The money for the senior project comes out of being able to get approval from the town of Eagle,” says Lapin, “If it doesn’t work for the town of Eagle, it’s OK. I don’t have to do this.”

Marlene Kunkel says the senior living facilities are definitely something the community should be considering, and supporting.

“It is too bad it is contingent on other things,” she says.

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