Proposed school site swap for Haymeadow is not approved
EAGLE — A proposed land swap pitched months ago by Haymeadow’s development team as a way to raise needed infrastructure funding for its project and accelerate multi-family housing construction died Tuesday night.
Eagle Town Council members voted 4-2 against a motion to approve the swap, with little to no discussion about the merits of the issue, after hearing almost two hours of public comment on it.
The proposed swap would have allowed Haymeadow’s development team to build up to 112 units of multi-family housing on a 14-acre site adjacent to the Soleil neighborhood and to Mountain Recreation’s ice rink and pool.
That site is currently designated to be used as a school at some point in the future, so in exchange for using the site for housing, Haymeadow’s development team offered up a larger 18-acre site for a future school that would be more centrally located in the yet-to-materialize neighborhood.
Facing rising construction costs, Haymeadow’s development team proposed the land swap months ago to load more housing density into the front end of the project, hoping to take advantage of its already-installed infrastructure to raise money that it will need for future infrastructure while also providing lower-cost housing.
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The Haymeadow planned unit development was approved by town officials in 2014, authorizing up to 837 housing units throughout five neighborhoods on 660 acres along Brush Creek Road, and the swap would not have led to any additional housing units, just a reshuffling of units already approved.
While some infrastructure has been put in place for Haymeadow, nearly seven years later the first house has yet to be built.
With the school site swap, Haymeadow developer Brandon Cohen told the Eagle Town Council that he could commit to building at least 25 units starting next year. Without it, Haymeadow’s fields are likely to continue to go without construction of their first home — at least for now.
“… Obviously we didn’t spend as much on infrastructure as we did to never build there, so we would build it, but it wouldn’t be next year, to be candid, because we’re not far enough along in this planning process and I think there’s a risk we would get stuck with higher construction costs and potentially not get the higher home prices to stick on the other end,” Cohen said.
The proposed school site swap went before Eagle’s advisory planning commission twice, with commissioners ultimately recommending the Town Council deny it.
The issue generated petitions from numerous neighbors against the swap and more than 100 letters of public comment to Eagle Town Council, with people raising points both for and against the swap at Tuesday night’s meeting.
People against the swap raised concerns about the impact on their homes, neighborhoods and roads; questioned putting so much multi-family housing in one area when it would otherwise be spread throughout more of the Haymeadow project; questioned if the swap would even provide affordable housing, with developers targeting $400 per square foot costs; and opposed moving the school site because it would end a long-term vision of a shared campus for Mountain Recreation and the school district.
Some people pointed out that Haymeadow’s development team could be building housing right now, if it wanted to, and noted there are other projects in the pipeline in Eagle to provide needed housing.
To others, approving the proposed school site swap made sense, taking a site originally planned for a school that’s not likely to be needed for years and instead using it to build needed housing.
Mike McCormack, vice president of Mountain Recreation, said his organization officially does not support the swap. “We feel the idea of a shared campus with the school district is like peanut butter and chocolate and dogs and frisbees. We feel like we have a generational opportunity here to share not just parking, but fields,” he told the council.
McCormack acknowledged the long-envisioned recreation center today remains a pool and ice rink with some offices. But plans for improvements have been developed and could go before voters in November for needed funding, if polling finds strong public support for them.
“The world’s not going to spin off its access if the shared campus doesn’t happen,” McCormack told the council. “Tomorrow, no matter which way you vote, we march forward together. And we realign our ducks and figure out how to be friends and neighbors again.”
After the public comments, Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said that he would entertain a motion one way or the other on the school site swap, saying that by then many people were probably either already for it or against it, and that he was struggling personally to support changing a well-thought-out development and a shared campus for Mountain Recreation and the school district.
Council member Matt Solomon made a motion to approve the proposed school site swap. The motion was then put to a vote with no discussion and failed 4-2, with Solomon and Council member David Gaboury supporting it.
Reached for comment Wednesday morning, Solomon said he appreciated everyone’s input on the school site swap, and that he felt the proposal met all the needed conditions for approval.
A second PUD amendment proposed by Haymeadow’s development team, allowing it to swap open space sites with the town and to renovate an existing cabin on the property into a special events venue, also failed when put to a vote, but was then continued to a future meeting in May for additional consideration and more information.
“We’re disappointed in Tuesday night’s decision, but appreciate all the time and effort Eagle town staff, planning and zoning commission and Town Council put into reviewing our amendment application,” Cohen said on Wednesday morning. “I’d also like to thank the many supporters who took their time to voice their views on the swap.”
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.