Frances Rolater: Time is now for Eagle River Station
I just returned from Glenwood Springs where I spent $230, including sales tax, for things I could not buy locally. Sadly, this will benefit Glenwood’s residents, not my neighbors. I had great service in three stores from terrific employees. Then I came home to read Jan Rosenthal-Townshend’s latest article concerning Eagle River Station.
We should all know of her opposition to Eagle River Station by now. Perhaps her attention is not as riveted to the town budget as mine, because she does not actually live in the town of Eagle.
Recently, she attended an Eagle Area Community Plan Committee meeting where our town manager reiterated how terrifically dependant Colorado towns are on sales tax revenue for our general fund and capital fund. She heard that in 2009 we will have very little income from permits, tap fees etc. In 2006, we had permit revenue of $875,014, and the 2008 budget planned for a 60 percent decrease to $350,000! The reduction of $525,014 is undoubtedly more than we get in sales tax revenue from downtown Eagle retailers in a year.
Here are some facts that should really get our attention. Our projected sales tax revenue of $3,308,950 for 2008 is 80 percent of all the money that goes in to the general fund from taxes. And over 20 percent of that comes from construction-related sales. So, think about it. As we close in on “build out” and construction winds down, our revenue falls and what do we have to replace it?
Before rushing to “infill” as a solution, let’s reflect on other information Jan heard at the meeting. We have huge issues with infill on Highway 6 (Grand Avenue) due to the 60 -oot setback for expansion right of way. As buildings are sold and dismantled for new uses, the setback comes into play, and 60 feet disappears from the front, leaving darn little for access, parking and building. In the central business district, residential owners with their own setbacks don’t like the idea of mixed use or commercial buildings coming out to the sidewalk. On Chambers Avenue we now have a mix of uses that do not support retail. What specialty retail do we envision between the Justice Center and the Pipe Yard? Moreover, the remaining lots are too small, and the street is a dead end. Town staff believes we have little to no hope of attracting a university or large high-tech business to the mountains now, and even if we did arrange for that miracle, resulting property tax revenues would not equal sales tax revenue from the same size development.
We are left waiting for a viable, revenue generating alternative to a shopping center for our town. I have asked opponents for a plan, and gotten vague ideas and nothing that works. We know that our residents want amenities and services like traffic solutions, road improvements, pathways, landscaping, open space, and police and fire protection. They told us so in public forums. How do we pay for increasing demands with declining revenue?
There are errors in Jan’s article to be corrected. Eagle River Station is not five times larger than Flat Irons Crossing in Broomfield. At 1,505,617 square feet, that center is about three times larger than Eagle River Station. Why are we shocked that Eagle River Station is larger than Broadway? The 1996 Eagle Area Community Plan correctly designated downtown as the home for small business and services, not national retailers. Those should go in the I-70 corridor area, an idea which also was was identified in the 1996 plan.
The playing field is changing as we sit on our hands. Next Realty is talking to Lowes about Gypsum, and Trademark is developing a plan for Avon. Desirable retailers like Coldwater Creek, Williams Sonoma, Chico’s, Ann Taylor Loft etc. will make one decision for one store in the area. They will all go together, and they love us because they can dominate the western side of the state from here. If Eagle does not welcome them, they will go elsewhere, and the opportunity will not come back to us later. Our dollars will “leak” to other communities for years to come. The biggest risk we tcanake is waiting.
I cannot help but disagree with Ms. Rosenthal-Townshend. The time is now. The developer has secured funding in spite of a shaky economy. This is an excellent developer with a great track record. They have demonstrated their care for the concerns of our town. Eagle can still be a small town, but not a poor one.
Frances Rolater is an Eagle resident.