Small property is related to several issues

Derek Franz

Editor’s note: This story has been modified for clarity and accuracy since it’s original publication in the Enterprise.

Eagle County commissioners are agreeable to granting the town of Eagle an easement on county-owned open space property for construction access to the town’s new water treatment facility near the confluence of Brush Creek and Eagle River.

The 7.5-acre open space parcel was purchased by the town and county in 2011 for $1.6 million. The town contributed $160,000 for the purchase of the land, which was formerly used as a salvage yard, and the land is co-managed by the county and town, thought the partnership is yet to be formalized.

The town’s request for an access easement was not a big deal but it brought up some other considerations among county staff and commissioners on Tuesday.

Support Local Journalism

“After we bought it, the county proposed a general management plan to allow some flexibility for the town but the town didn’t accept it because it was too general, so an agreement was never formalized,” said County Open Space Director Toby Sprunk, who started his job after the deal was made.

Since then the property has been cleaned up, reseeded, a new parking lot was built and an entrance sign was installed. Much of this work took place in 2011-12. Sprunk and Eagle Open Space Director John Staight are currently talking about making some small improvements to the area, such as picnic tables and a trail down to the river. Sprunk asked commissioners if they might be willing to “pick up the tab” on those small projects and commissioners Jill Ryan and Kathy Chandler-Henry nodded. Commissioner Sara Fisher was absent.

A memorandum of understanding for land management is likely to come soon.

“The town and county are in discussions and a formalized agreement is on the radar,” said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney, who started his job with the town after stepping down from his second term as county commissioner July 1.

“The town and county haven’t shared space like this before,” Stavney said. “It’s unprecedented.”

As far as construction equipment occasionally using the area, Sprunk said it comes with the territory of the location.

“When you have a piece of land in the middle of town, you have to expect it will have to be used for these things sometimes,” he said.

As part of the agreement to allow the town to have a water intake structure on the creek, the county may ask the town to coordinate and fund the improvements, but again, nothing has been formalized, Sprunk said.

The property is currently open to the public and anglers are frequently seen along the Eagle and Brush Creek banks.

“The county and town are good team players and will work to facilitate a mutually agreeable outcome,” Sprunk said.

Beefier land use regs?

Another issue that was raised by the topic of the open space parcel has to do with the county’s land use regulations. The land was bought with the intention to remove a salvage yard off the banks of the river. However, the owner of the salvage yard started compiling what commissioners called “junk” on another property along the river.

“It might be junk but it’s not in violation of zoning codes – he’s not operating a dump or a salvage yard,” said County Director of Environmental Health Ray Merry, who noted there was a similar case with a property owner at State Bridge.

“The lesson learned is that, when we’re doing acquisitions, if we care about the fate of the material that’s there, we need to be a little bit more clever,” Merry said.

County Manager Keith Montag said the county is engaged in conversations with those property owners and a positive outcome seems hopeful but there are considerations for the future.

“One of the things we might want to talk about is do we want to incorporate or beef up our land use regulations somehow but that’s a tricky slope,” he said.

Support Local Journalism