Editorial: Downvalley’s ’08 challenge | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Downvalley’s ’08 challenge

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

While the nation’s housing market continues to be rocked by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, Eagle and Gypsum continue to surge.

The populations of both towns have roughly doubled in the past few years, straining town budgets to keep up with the demand for street improvements and other municipal services.

At the moment, Gypsum seems slightly better equipped financially to deal with its growth, thanks largely to the town’s Costco store and the surge in commercial building around it. Sales tax collections just about doubled from 2006 to 2007, putting the town in good position to pay its debts ” mostly the town’s recreation center ” and put money into streets and other improvements.

Eagle, however, possesses the only “real” downtown area downvalley, and did an admirable job last year of finishing improvements to the four-block stretch of Broadway.

While Broadway looks nice, the town continues its civic struggle over the property just east of town, currently known as Eagle River Station. That proposed development, which could include hundreds of homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space, continues to grind through the town’s approval process.

In the coming year, town officials need to strike the best deal possible for the property. That’s going to require a comprehensive employee housing plan and a well-designed, loophole-resistant deal with the developers to share sales tax revenue from the project to create and maintain the road, water and other utility networks Eagle River Station will need.

Eagle officials also ought to resolve right now to take the Eagle River Station plan straight to voters instead of waiting for opponents to launch an inevitable petition drive to put the matter on the ballot.

While dealing with Eagle River Station will take a lot of Eagle officials’ time, they also will continue to be pressed by residents to take action on the town’s traffic problems.

By big-city standards, traffic anywhere in the county isn’t bad, and remains virtually nonexistent for much of the day.

But a trip from Brush Creek Elementary School to Interstate 70 can be a long one in the mornings, and the town needs to continue to work with state officials on ways to ease rush-hour congestion.

Gypsum officials have already committed to giving residents up Gypsum Creek on the south side of town another way to get to U.S. Highway 6 by completing a long-planned extension of Jules Drive from Valley Road to the state highway. That should help ease congestion around Eagle Valley High School in the mornings.

But our downvalley towns need to keep working with county, state and federal officials ” as well as towns upvalley ” to find a way to pay for another long-planned improvement, a new interchange from Interstate 70 directly to the Eagle County Regional Airport. The interchange will be expensive ” estimates of $65 million and up ” but if the county’s airport and the businesses around it are going to keep growing, it will be needed sooner than later.

Gypsum officials’ attention is also going to be focused on what could be a novel employee housing plan that instead of capping the appreciation of new units would instead restrict their re-sale to people who work in the county. That could keep small homes relatively affordable while still allowing owners to tap a bit more equity ” which is often used to start or bolster small businesses ” than standard restrictions that slow home appreciation to a crawl.

Both towns will have full schedules this year, and we wish them success.

” Scott N. Miller for the Editorial Board

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