Edwards RiverPark is up for public debate again this week | VailDaily.com

Edwards RiverPark is up for public debate again this week

Hearing No. 8 before the Eagle County Board of Commissioners slated for Tuesday afternoon

This rendering shows the Edwards RiverPark development in relation to the larger community area.
Special to the Daily

The Edwards RiverPark proposal is seven public hearings into its review process before the Eagle County Board of Commissioners. Hearing No. 8 is planned Tuesday as the latest opportunity for the public to offer comment regarding the proposal.

The commissioners’ latest Edwards RiverPark hearing is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. and the afternoon session has been set aside as a public comment session. To date, there have been plenty members of the public ready to offer comment regarding the proposal.

The Edwards RiverPark is a commercial/residential planned unit development proposal from a group called Sierra Trail Investments LLC. The project is planned on a 53.7-acre parcel located north of U.S. Highway 6 and south of the Eagle River on land that was formerly the site of a B&B Excavating gravel pit operation. The proposal includes two large condo buildings and a condo/hotel building along with commercial buildings, multifamily residential and townhomes.

In October, the Eagle County Planning Commission recommended approval of the application with 39 conditions of approval. The county planning staff also recommended approval with the addition of three more conditions. As of this week, staff has stated that 21 of the recommended conditions have been satisfied, but recommended that 22 of the conditions remain if the commissioners vote to approve the proposed development.

During the public hearing held last week, Edwards RiverPark planner Dominic Mauriello noted he has been fairly taken aback regarding the negativity that has characterized dialogue that’s come out of the public hearing process. Beyond those issues, however, he noted the process has resulted in changes to the proposal and he outlined those revisions during the March 3 session.

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“We heard very clearly that people thought we had too much commercial space,” Mauriello said, as he launched his presentation.

The Edwards RiverPark initially included 36,500 square feet of commercial space, but the project team has now reduced that figure to 29,000 square feet. That is a 20% reduction, Mauriello noted, and it means that the project would comprise only 5% of the total Edwards Commercial Core square footage — which totals 500,000 square feet.

The team has also trimmed back its meeting room square footage — from an initial proposal of 20,000 square feet to a new proposal for 12,000 square feet.

Workforce Housing

Calling the Edwards RiverPark housing plan “one of the most aggressive housing plans I have seen in the valley in decades,” Mauriello didn’t outline changes but restated the development team’s proposal.

The 540 total dwelling units at Edwards RiverPark would include 10 for-sale deed restricted units and 90 deed-restricted rental units. Additionally, the project has proposed a 1% real estate transfer tax on free market transactions with proceeds earmarked for the county’s housing program. The development team has stated the transfer tax could generate $7.5 million in the first eight years and $450,000 annually at build-out for the county’s affordable housing program

Mauriello stressed that in total, Edwards RiverPark includes 100 workforce housing units and 80 of those units will be price capped. That plan exceeds the requirements contained in the county’s 2020 housing guidelines, Mauriello said. He added that Edwards RiverPark has offered language in its Planned Unit Development Guide to entertain additional deed restrictions in the future — those restrictions could include price-capped units or resident-occupied units.

“This would allow a minimum of 45 additional units to be deed restricted with a buy down program and shows further commitment to locals housing,” Mauriello noted.

Amphitheater plan

As part of its public amenities planning, Edwards RiverPark includes plans for an amphitheater located near one of its open space areas. That proposal has come under fire from some members of the community who believe it would have a negative impact on wildlife and the Eagle River corridor.

Mauriello said the team was willing to consider elimination of the amphitheater but he argued that decision would represent a loss to the larger Edwards community.

During the amphitheater discussion last week, Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney asked if the amphitheater was part of the hotel amenities plan or if it was more of a community asset.

“It is truly bringing a benefit or is it a money-making part of the hotel?” she asked.

“I don’t think the amphitheater would ever pay for itself. It is really an example of the public benefit that is being provided there,” Mauriello said. “We think it is actually very valuable because the public will enjoy it.”

Traffic and wildlife

Two of the most often-cited criticisms of the Edwards RiverPark plan are traffic and wildlife impacts. Mauriello briefly addressed both of those topics last week.

The Edwards RiverPark plan includes a new $5 million roundabout that will be built at U.S. Highway 6 and Lake Creek Road, the proposed entrance to the development. Mauriello also stressed the development team’s commitment to fund that project on top of paying the project’s $2 million traffic impact fee.

“This is a public benefit because fees would typically be credited against improvements being made,” Mauriello noted in his written remarks. He also cited the development’s traffic study, which shows that Edwards RiverPark will pay for the road work even though estimates state the development will only contribute a maximum of 17 percent of the roadway traffic in 2040.

On the topic of wildlife, Mauriello noted a .2% real estate transfer fee will be paid on all free market residential unit sales, which will go to fund improvements to wildlife habitat. He noted those improvements will happen both on and offsite and will include wetlands and riparian areas. He added that environmental education, provisions for wildlife movement corridors through the site and 31 acres of open space placed in conservation easement are part of the plan.

“The inclusion of a riparian and water quality management plans, wetlands protection and access control plans, and a monitoring program to ensure long-term protection of this environmental resource has not been seen on any other project in Eagle County,” he stated in his written remarks.

The complete Edwards River Park file can be viewed at eaglecounty.us/planning/activelanduseapplications. Anyone interested in providing public comment Tuesday afternoon can visit the county active land use page and click “Edwards RiverPark – Planned Unit Development” to view additional information.

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