Edwards RiverPark team presents scaled-back development plan
After last-minute tabling last March, developers cut 100 residential units
The development team for Edwards RiverPark was back before the Eagle Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, more than five months after making an eleventh-hour request to table their project.
The plan now up for county consideration is a curtailed version of Edwards RiverPark that proposes 100 fewer residential units and the elimination of a 140-room hotel and an amphitheater initially proposed at the site.
Project planner Dominic Mauriello said the revised plan is a better representation of the county’s 2018 sketch plan approval for Edwards RiverPark. “I would say we took a little detour,” he said.
“We have worked hard on this plan,” Mauriello said, adding the new proposal represents a more pedestrian scale than the previous plan.
What’s changed, what hasn’t
“What we have today represents a massive reduction in impact,” Mauriello continued.
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The revised Edwards RiverPark plan includes a total of 440 residential units — that’s 100 units fewer than proposed during the public hearings last spring. The total commercial space proposed at the development has been reduced to 11,500 square feet, 17,500 less than the March proposal for 29,000 square feet and the original proposal for 60,000 square feet. With the elimination of the hotel, 20,000 square feet of conference space has been dropped from the plan.
With the residential and commercial spaces cut back, Mauriello said the building heights proposed at the site have also been impacted. The plan now calls for a maximum height of 68 feet at the peak of one of the buildings compared with the previous plan, which proposed a maximum height of 85 feet.
Along with reducing the overall scope and scale of the project, Mauriello said the new plan also lessens traffic impacts. He said the plan represents a 38% reduction in traffic generation compared with the previous plan. Even though the project has reduced its traffic impact, Mauriello stressed Edwards RiverPark still plans to finance construction of a $5.6 million roundabout at its entrance off U.S. Highway 6 at Lake Creek Road.
Mauriello also addressed one of the previous criticisms of the Edwards RiverPark — the argument that with the hotel and commercial space proposed, the development would require more employees than the number of workforce housing units it provided. While the total number of residential units in the project has dropped, Mauriello noted the number of workforce housing units has not. Edwards RiverPark has not changed its plan to offer a total of 100 workforce units — 90 deed-restricted rental units and 10 deed restricted for-sale units.
“Now the housing serves more of the greater community than the project itself,” he said.
From the initial application to the revised proposal, water supply issues related to Edwards RiverPark have been a community concern regarding the proposed development. Recently, community members have cited an Ability to Serve letter provided by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District/Upper Eagle River Water Authority for the RiverPark application.
“The Authority has water rights to commit to serve the project if the Board of County Commissioners chooses to approve it, however, it should be noted that the commitment of water rights to this project will reduce Authority’s supply of in-basin augmentation storage below its strategic reserve goals which may affect the Authority’s ability to provide reliable water service in the future, given uncertainty associated with the impacts of climate change.”
But Mauriello stressed the letter does not end there. “The Authority is currently pursuing initiatives and projects to increase its in-basin storage supplies to enhance the reliability of the water supply and provide an adequate strategic reserve for uncertainty,” the letter continues.
“This last sentence is critical to understand the statement,” said Mauriello.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry addressed the water concern directly with Jason Cowles, engineering and water resources director for Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
“What does that mean exactly, when you are considering your storage reserves,” she asked. “Does it put current residents at risk?”
Cowles said the intent of the statement was not to indicate the district was running out of water supply, but rather to reinforce the need for additional storage to continue meeting the demands for current and future use as the valley faces the effects of climate change on its water supply and increased demand.
Additionally, Cowles said the district has stipulated a two-year deadline for Edwards RiverPark to pay its service fees so the district doesn’t have a long-term commitment to reserve water rights in anticipation of development. “The concern was they have no skin in the game and we have water rights being reserved,” Cowles explained.
After review of the revised plan, the county’s planning staff recommended that the project be approved with conditions, concluding it substantially complied with the county’s regulations. The county commissioners weighed whether the revisions were substantial enough to send the proposal back to the Eagle County Planning Commission for reconsideration.
“I am sort of feeling split on whether to send it back or not,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said.
“I am also on the fence,” Chandler-Henry agreed. “This is a substantial change. However, all the changes to the applications are reductions to the size and scope of the project.”
Because the need to reduce the project size and scope was cited as a main concern by planning commission members who objected to the plan, the commissioners opted to continue with the file themselves. But because they are reconsidering the proposal — the commissioners formally reopened public comment for the plan. The county commissioners had initially closed public comment for the file back in March when they prepared to vote on the original application.
However, Tuesday’s three-hour public hearing didn’t provide time for public comment on the Edwards RiverPark changes. That will happen when the proposal returns for its next public hearing at 3:30 p.m on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Community members can also provide written comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complete Edwards RiverPark application file can be found at eaglecounty.us/planning/activelanduseapplications.