Public seizes last chance to weigh in on Edwards RiverPark project
Neighbors scrutinize re-tooled plan, county commissioners schedule special hearing Oct. 7 to render decision
Opponents and supporters of the Edwards RiverPark project don’t agree about much, but they have found consensus on one topic — everyone agrees that consideration of the plan has been going on for a really long time.
It’s going to last a bit longer. Final deliberations for the proposal have been scheduled for a special hearing that will begin at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7.
On Tuesday, the Eagle County Board of Commissioners reopened public comment for the proposal after the Edwards RiverPark team presented an amended plan earlier this month. Last March, the project team asked the commissioners to table their application when their original proposal appeared to be headed toward denial. The revised plan now up for county consideration is a curtailed version that proposes 100 fewer residential units and the elimination of a 140-room hotel and an amphitheater initially proposed at the site. Additionally, after the commissioners expressed concerns about short-term rentals at the site during a Sept. 7 hearing, the applicant eliminated those uses from the proposal.
The revised Edwards RiverPark plan includes a total of 440 residential units. and the total commercial space proposed at the development has been reduced to 11,500 square feet, 17,500 less than the March proposal. But the majority of local residents who offered comment Tuesday maintained the proposal is still too large and does not fit the character of the Edwards community.
“Over and over again we have heard why this project isn’t the right project for Edwards,” offered resident John Kelly. He cited wildlife impacts, traffic, building heights and water use concerns — issues that comprised the majority of Tuesday’s comments.
Resident Dwight Merriman characterized the revised plan as “still not tolerable but more tolerable” than the initial application.
“As a private landowner, you should be able to develop your property. This is America,” Merriman said. “However, we should be approving responsible development, and this is not responsible.”
“Over the course of this yearlong process, I think you have heard enough evidence to turn this down flat,” said Edwards resident Don Welch. In addition to all the testimony and evidence, Welch questioned whether the site — which was formerly a gravel pit — was environmentally suitable for residential development.
“It’s just not the right size for Edwards,” said resident Kevin Roach.
The plan did draw some support Tuesday. “This development can help create economic opportunities for more than just the 1% of Eagle County residents,” said resident Ross Blankenship.
Bobbi Lipnick, a member of the Eagle County Housing Task Force, also spoke in favor. “The task force believes this will be an asset for our community,” he offered. “We believe the solution to our housing problem is public/private partnerships, and this is an example.”
After more than two hours of public comment and a three-hour hearing, the commissioners said they needed to contemplate what they had heard. They also noted a large volume of public comment emails hit their mailboxes Monday and Tuesday, and they needed additional time to read them before launching their deliberations and issuing a decision for the plan.
“I would benefit from time to think about this,” said Commissioner Matt Scherr, drawing agreement from his fellow commissioners for the Oct. 7 special meeting.