Edwards RiverPark project tabled, not denied | VailDaily.com

Edwards RiverPark project tabled, not denied

After Eagle County commissioners cite several areas where the plan failed to meet standards, development reps ask for one more chance to work with county staff

Project planner Dominic Mauriello leads county officials on tour of the Edwards RiverPark site last year. The development is proposed at a site located south of Interstate 70 and the Eagle River and west of the Eagle River Preserve.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Tuesday was billed as decision day for the Eagle County Board of Commissioners to make its ruling on the controversial Edwards RiverPark project.

For a while, it looked like the proposal was headed toward denial.

But before the board acted on a motion to deny, project planner Dominic Mauriello requested the board table the file one more time — to a date to be determined — so the applicant and the county planning staff could work out issues identified as concerns during the county commissioners’ deliberations. The commissioners unanimously approved the tabling request.

For almost two years to the day, the county has reviewed the Edwards RiverPark proposal, a commercial/residential planned unit development proposed by a group called Sierra Trail Investments LLC. The project would be built 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 space, multifamily residential and townhomes. The overall density proposal is 540 dwelling units and 31,500 square feet of commercial floor area.

After a lengthy examination and negotiation with county staff, the project went to the Eagle County Planning Commission last fall. The commission voted to recommend approval of the plan with 39 conditions that addressed issues such as parking, landscaping, riparian areas, traffic issues and building heights

Commissioners Jeanne McQueeney, Matt Scherr and Kathy Chandler-Henry debate the Edwards RiverPark project Tuesday. The public hearing was slated to be decision day for the controversial project, but as the commissioners discussed a motion to deny the plan, the development team requested and received a motion to table the project until an undetermined future date.

The commissioners began their public hearings regarding the proposal on Dec. 8 and they have held eight sessions to discuss the plan. The last session was two weeks ago, after which the commissioners closed public comment.

But now, with the possibility of changes to the proposal, members of the public will likely have renewed opportunities to voice opinions about Edwards RiverPark. Or they will, when and if, the proposal comes back for commissioner consideration. Originally the proposal was to be tabled until May 11. Then Mauriello suggested a June date. Ultimately everyone agreed to table to a “date uncertain.”

Standards not met

As they offered their opinions regarding the Edwards RiverPark plan, all three commissioners said parts of the proposal did not meet the county’s development standards. During Tuesday’s hearing, they painstakingly detailed what the applicable standards say and then explained how they felt the plan met or failed to meet those rules.

Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry cited building heights, road improvements, traffic issues, compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods and compliance with the Edwards Area Community Plan as her specific examples regarding how the proposal fell short of the county standards.

She also detailed her conclusion that the development did not provide enough public benefit to outweigh its impacts.

“There is public benefit,” Chandler-Henry noted. “But this is a significant upzoning and the impacts will also be significant.”

Her fellow commissioners concurred.

“It (the public benefit) just didn’t meet the level of impacts for the development as it is proposed,” said Commissioner Matt Scherr. “There is nothing about it that looks small town feel or pedestrian feel or sense of place.”

“I am disappointed that there are so many standards that we are not able to approve,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “I don’t know if you can get away with a hotel of that size and still get this idea of having ‘a small town feel.’”

While they noted the areas where the plan fell short, the commissioners also cited areas where they supported the proposal. Chandler-Henry said the Edwards RiverPark workforce housing plan offered creative solutions and complimented the developer on the proposal.

“Housing is certainly something that is right at the top of our strategic priorities list,” she said.

The developer proposed 100 workforce housing units, 90 rental units, 72 units price capped at 100% average median income, nine units price capped at 80% AMI, and nine units with a resident-occupied restriction. Additionally, a 1% real estate transfer tax was proposed for Edwards RiverPark market rate sales with proceeds earmarked for the county’s housing program. The fiscal analysis for Edwards RiverPark predicted a total of $7.5 million would be collected during its first eight sales years.

“Knowing how much we need housing, I feel I tried as best I could to make this work,” McQueeney said. But ultimately, she said, the other concerns outweighed the benefits.

The commissioners also applauded the developer’s plan to construct a new $5 million roundabout at its entrance at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Lake Creek Road. But they noted the development itself would cause additional traffic issues on other parts of the Highway 6 corridor.

Last minute request

After nearly two hours of discussion and right as the commissioners were discussing a motion to deny the project, Mauriello made the request to table.

“We hear you. It is good finally, at this point, to hear what people feel about the project,” he said. He requested time to work with the county staff to see if the project team could revise the plan to address the commissioners’ issues.

“The two hang-ups, for me, are mass and scale,” said Commissioner Chandler-Henry. “I do think we can get there. There are pieces of this that are great, particularly the housing program.”

Her fellow commissioners agreed to let the applicant have one more chance to revise the plan. And, if those revisions are made, the county will give members of the public another chance to have their say about the changes.

Tuesday’s public hearing can be viewed at ectv.com.

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