Decision again delayed for Edwards RiverPark project
Developers’ offer to increase deed-restricted housing prompts county to extend plan review to Oct. 26
The Edwards RiverPark proposal was headed toward a final decision Thursday when the development team made a last-minute request to table the file for retooling.
If this sounds familiar, it’s exactly what happened the last time the project came to a vote by the Eagle County Commissioners in March.
However, this time the anticipated changes to the file will be more limited, as will the schedule. The commissioners are scheduled to resume the Edwards RiverPark review on Oct. 26.
During a nearly 90-minute discussion, as the commissioners debated the proposal, much of it centered around a central idea: Do the public benefits offered as part of the Edwards RiverPark plan outweigh the impacts of development?
When the tone of the discussion indicated that at least two of the commissioners believed the answer was “no,” project planner Dominic Mauriello suggested an additional enticement: an offer to place a requirement on 170 of the project’s proposed 340 free-market residential units that would mandate resident-only occupancy.
The commissioners noted that offer was worth consideration, but didn’t jump to accept it.
“What we don’t want to do is negotiate from the dais,” Commissioner Matt Scherr said.
But the commissioners noted that if they tabled the file and the developer came forward with the new proposal, public comment will be reopened. That sets the scene for another round of discussion in two weeks.
Located west of the Edwards spur road and north of U.S. Highway 6 on a 55.27-acre former gravel pit site, the revised Edwards RiverPark plan proposes a total of 440 residential units and 11,500 square feet of commercial space. That plan represents the elimination of 100 residential units and 17,500 square feet of commercial space from the original proposal, which was tabled in March. The revised plan also nixes a proposed hotel, conference space and amphitheater from the original application.
But two of the big public benefits touted by the development team remained part of the plan: a new roundabout at U.S. Highway 6 and Lake Creek Road and a workforce housing plan.
During deliberations this week, the commissioners all applauded the development housing plan, which includes 90 deed-restricted rental units, nine price-capped rental units at 80% average median income (AMI), 72 price-capped rental units at 100% AMI and 10 resident-occupied, deed-restricted units for sale with no transfer fee exemption. Edwards RiverPark also has proposed a 1% real estate transfer fee on all free-market units, with the money earmarked for the county’s workforce housing program.
But during deliberations, the commissioners also voiced reservations about the proposal.
“This has not been a slam dunk for me to say, ‘check, check, check.’ This is how this should go,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said. “But I do believe this is where density belongs.”
McQueeney noted that more density is a natural consequence as the county works to address its housing crisis.
“And if you want density, you are going to have traffic,” she said.
Scope and scale
The additional traffic that would result from the Edwards RiverPark development, as well as the general scope and scale of the project, are major concerns, Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said.
“The issue for me is compatibility with the surrounding area,” she said.
She noted the Edwards Area Community Plan talks about having a small-town character, but that vision is difficult to reconcile with the large buildings and residential density proposed at Edwards RiverPark.
“I think that is a lot of the tension we are feeling,” she said.
She noted the housing plan proposed for the development exceeds what the county would require. Chandler-Henry said the developers’ estimated building costs of $650 per square foot at Edwards RiverPark resulted in a high-density request.
“As a community, we need to think about how do we get affordable housing,” she said. “We can’t say on one hand we want affordable housing, and on the other hand say we only want one house every five acres.”
Scherr noted that public benefit of the housing program, roundabout and a proposed child care center are all substantial factors working in favor of the plan. He also acknowledged the reality of creating affordable housing means increased density. But Scherr questioned if the Edwards RiverPark site was the appropriate location for the scope of development proposed.
“It just runs contrary to what that community is trying to be, regardless of how good these suggestions are for public benefit. It just doesn’t feel like it is meeting that need,” he said.
Chandler-Henry was more direct in her assessment.
“I am coming down on the side that it is not compatible and it doesn’t conform,” she said.
With that reaction from the commissioners, Mauriello mentioned adding residents-only deed restrictions, asking if that would help make the proposal more palatable.
“It could be a tipping point if we knew the people in the cars were people living here and working here,” Chandler-Henry said.
After a brief executive session with the county attorney, the commissioners announced they would not negotiate as part of deliberations but would be willing to table the proposal and allow the Edwards RiverPark team time to formalize the deed-restriction offer.
The proposal will be back before the commissioners at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The hearing can be viewed at Reflect-Vod-EagleCounty.Cablecast.tv.