Feedback on Eaton shows lots of interest | VailDaily.com
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Feedback on Eaton shows lots of interest

Don Rogers

Reaction to the Daily’s continuing disaffection with Eagle County’s ill-advised contribution toward buying the better part of a 40-year-old gravel pit in downtown Edwards as open space has been interesting, even rich.At root it shows that the issue remains very much in residents’ minds. The feedback has come in letters, in Tipsline, in phone messages and unsolicited in person, too. People are thinking about it, and they are indeed split about the wisdom of spending that much in that particular location.In summary, the county commissioners voted 2-1 recently to empty their open space fund and fish $2.2 million more out of the general fund to contribute $6 million of the $12 million it will take to buy the 72-acre Eaton Ranch parcel just west of the Spur Road and just north of Highway 6. A developer has the option on 105 acres of that gorgeous wetland and flood plain, along with maybe 20-30 acres of more easily developable land, just to the west of the parcel the county would “save.” The county and local master plans for the bulk of the gravel pit call for shops and homes, along with a greenbelt at the vital part of the Eaton property, where the river runs through it. We do think that’s the most sensible plan for the site, and that those open space funds should be committed to better suited sites where development has not yet encroached. And here’s a novel concept: Save the money if none of these better places is apparent to the commissioners right this minute. Hey, maybe that would even allow for the Open Space Adivisory Committee to compile a proper listing of what might be out there to preserve as open space, and to prioritize in some methodical fashion where the dollars might do the most good. Meantime, the Vail Valley Foundation is cranking along with its campaign to raise that other $6 million from a variety of sources. We’re of two minds on this one: It’s a grand gesture for the foundation to work on a truly local project, even if it falls way outside the foundation’s normal mission. On the other hand, we don’t think this particular project represents the best use of public and donated funds for open space. We worry that all this spending will wind up worsening, rather than helping, the grand cause of open space preservation in this county. Money spent “saving” downtown Edwards may well come at the cost of lost opportunity at more fitting locations later.That’s not just our assessment. A fair number of open space advocates worry about precisely the same thing. That should qualify as “interesting” feedback, don’t you think? The real argument is not open space vs. no open space. It’s about spending $6 million of county money that on land that should already be preserved without the county rashly emptying its purse.A caller suggested that if the county went for an offer from the developer with the option on the next parcel over – the pretty one – that they would still have to spend $6 million, since that offer was $6 million to help the foundation complete the Eaton purchase. Apparently this caller pays the sticker price at car lots not named John Elway, too. But no, the county doesn’t need to participate at all in buying the land. The developer could do that, and then in the gantlet that follows be compelled by his own good sense – with nudging if necessary – to preserve the vital part of the parcel along the river while building on the part in the commercial-retail district. There also remain significant infrastructural challenges with road, grade and so on that make the investment significant after the property is purchased to begin to develop part of it. The governments involved here have ample firepower without throwing away $6 million to get that greenbelt along the river that opens to the pretty flood plain just to the west. Lots of people do not agree with my assessment, of course. They’ll gladly risk seeing that flood plain to the west filled in, and it’s a pretty good bet that would never happen. They also believe that striking now while there is an opportunity is worth it in the long run. Grass replacing the gravel quarry location makes more sense than waiting for land elsewhere that may or may not ever become available, in this view. We got lots of feedback along those lines, which is a rational position, even if we disagree with it. And oh yeah, plenty of pretty irrational musings, too: Edwards blown into a towering megalopolis; it has been a long time since some folks have visited even a small city, I think. The idea that opposing this agreement somehow means the objector has to be against all open space ever; so how to explain that evenly divided open space committee about this deal?Possibly the richest one is a letter insinuating that the Daily could only oppose this effort out of a greedy, greedy grab for more advertisers and readers. It had nice rhetorical flourishes, right up there with the notion that foundation Chairman Harry Frampton is a developer and somehow wants to cut off development to help sales at Eagle Ranch, or something. Yep, another strain of feedback. Gotta love modernday sophists. I’m absolutely certain that Frampton has the best interests of the community at heart, and that’s from discussing the issue with him in his office. He has good points, and a true heart for open space. We just disagree on this one. As for the rather desperate insinuation about the Daily, let’s just point out the obvious: A newspaper overly concerned with its profits as a business would never have the temerity to offer honest and frank opinions on anything approaching controversy. Might make someone mad, or gosh, even think.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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