Fisher: Busy times for Eagle County | VailDaily.com
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Fisher: Busy times for Eagle County

Sara FisherVail, CO Colorado

Two years ago, when I was running for county commissioner, I committed to work on three primary issues: workforce housing, transportation and our social infrastructure. As a new election season gets underway, these are still the top issues Eagle County citizens are concerned about. Heres an update on what were working on and my reasons for supporting these efforts: For workforce housing, were working with every town on the I-70 corridor from Vail to Gypsum along with members of the private sector in a think tank named the Housing Action Team. Over the last year, weve examined every conceivable alternative to getting housing built and determined that public/private partnerships make the most sense. Without public money and private innovation, affordable housing just wont happen. Were ready to take that thinking a step further by coordinating all housing with deed restrictions through a one-stop shopping center where purchasers can easily find out whats available, how to qualify for the unit they desire as well as learning about the responsibilities and challenges of home ownership. At the county were developing housing guidelines, which are regulations placed on developers to create workforce housing to offset the creation of new jobs (requiring more affordable housing) that comes with million-dollar plus homes and future commercial development. The West End project in Edwards will give us 72 deed-restricted units, of which 40 already have contracts even though the project is another two years out. Clearly the price points dont work for everyone, but they do work for some and offer an ownership opportunity for those who choose to live in the Edwards core. Weve invested $4.5 million dollars in the Stratton Flats project in Gypsum, which gives us 226 deed-restricted units along with 113 free-market units in what will be another Miller Ranch-style community. As the units are purchased, the county will see its investment returned, with interest, so we can use the money again for even more housing. Weve been working on a master plan for Wolcott. Theres little doubt that some day a new town may emerge there. But in the meantime, it would be foolish to gamble on the massive cost of roads and utilities before we explore more doable and cost-effective opportunities in our existing communities. Were evaluating the purchase the B&B parcel in Edwards to land-bank the property for possible development in the future of affordable housing and other needs once we have traffic issues and congestion better addressed. If this parcel is acquired, it will put the county and the Edwards community (not outside interests) in the drivers seat of planning.As for transportation, weve been busy as well. The I-70 Coalition, on which Commissioner Runyon sits as our representative, is looking at the big picture and possible solutions for transportation alternatives from DIA to Grand Junction. Our local Transportation Collaborative made up of representatives from all of the towns, special districts, and private interests are looking at the needs along our corridor and prioritizing our attentions. We have improved our relationship with the Colorado Department of Transportation, which is at the table with us in these and other efforts. CDOT is providing $11 million dollars to improve traffic at the Edwards Spur Road I-70 interchange next year. Were working with Gypsum and Eagle on their community needs, lobbying in Washington for dollars to be spent on the airport interchange and finding funding to work on the Eby Creek section at the entrance to Eagle. Partnering with CDOT, were working on Highway 6 between Eagle and Edwards to widen the shoulders so that our biking community can safely ride one of the most active biking sections in the county. Weve reached out to Union Pacific and are trying to foster a better understanding of the rail corridor and its potential for mass transit in the years to come. Weve completed the Gypsum to Eagle bike path, giving opportunity to both athletic commuters and pleasure riders to get out of their cars and onto the path from one community to another. Weve extended our airport runway and have paving projects planned to improve the runways condition and safety.On the social infrastructure level weve also committed time and resources. Weve funded Early Childhood Development, just like I said we should, because I know we need to. Just because the tax question failed doesnt mean the problems in this arena dont continue to exist Eagle County is not alone in focusing attention to this long-term investment in our community as other towns, cities and states across the U.S. are taking similar steps. Our high-cost housing almost requires that both parents work. Expanding day care facilities, offering incentives for daycare providers to receive enhanced training, making sure children are getting proper medical screening all of these efforts are making a difference for our younger families, and they deserve public investment. In the past year weve started to address the other side of the spectrum, our seniors. By May, we will have completed construction on 16 senior housing units in the town of Eagle, and we continue to entertain interest from private sector developers for creating other housing products that could serve this growing market. Assisted living is a critical component for aging individuals, and we are working to find solutions to meet their needs in the not too distant future. It became apparent last year that we need to make some necessary investments in public safety. The jail is overcrowded, our courts are too small, and probation cant function efficiently with offices scattered here and there. Our correctional staffs safety is compromised by inadequate facilities as are those who work in the DAs office, the court and the Sheriffs office. Very specifically, the increase in property taxes that the county will receive this year will be critical to addressing these issues with the hope that improvements can be made over the next several years without adding any more to our residents tax burden. We are working with the Town of Red Cliff and Upper Eagle River Water and Sanitation District to fund and build a new sewage treatment plant. Eagle County has offered to facilitate this project and the collaborative effort is well underway.Any business knows that to sustain itself into the future, it must reinvest Government is no different. The same applies to housing, transportation and to social services. My daily commitment is to find ways in which Eagle County Government can move us in that direction by partnering with private industry to bring solutions to fruition.I truly value your comments and concerns and encourage you to contact me as you see fit. My e-mail address is sara.fisher@eaglecounty.us and my phone number is 328-8605.


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