Housing or commercial: Eagle Town Council debates future of east Eagle
The Eagle Town Council’s Tuesday evening discussion of a plan for the future of east Eagle centered around the balance of what the town will need more of as it continues to expand: commercial space or residential space.
The East Eagle Sub Area Plan is designed to maximize use of just over 130 acres on the east side of town and forms a key part of the 2020 Elevate Eagle Comprehensive Plan passed in December of last year.
The plan aims to “identify and define desired future land uses and guide future growth that will meet the needs of the community today, and for decades to come.”
In Tuesday’s meeting, the Town Council discussed a draft of the future land-use map for the area, which currently proposes dedicating large swaths of the land to commercial and “light industrial” development as well as “interstate commercial” development.
Commercial/light industrial areas will provide more space for businesses “common to those that exist in the Chambers Avenue area but with larger lots that are more accessible to delivery trucks” as well as those “typically not found on Broadway Street such as restaurants with drive-up windows, grocery stores, gas stations, and service establishments,” according to the plan.
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These zones account for 94.6 of the 138.4 acres zoned in the plan.
The plan’s “interstate commercial” areas, accounting for 31.5 acres, are designed to “take advantage of the vehicular traffic present at interstate interchanges and to provide the town’s citizens options to driving out of town for certain goods and service.”
These businesses would feed off of the construction of a new highway interchange, a major piece of the plan that will provide Eagle with a second access point to I-70 farther east from the current interchange.
Interstate commercial areas will include lodging, regional retail, restaurants, and convenience stores/gas stations that “reflect the character of the town’s active/outdoor branding.”
Residential development in both zones is limited to employee housing above street level.
The map also proposes zoning 12.3 acres of the land as “mixed use,” which would allow for both residential and commercial development with the desire being for commercial shops and offices at street level and housing above.
Community Development Director Chad Phillips stressed that the zoning lines drawn on the conceptual land-use map presented Tuesday are simply a proposal and are by no means set in stone.
A previous iteration of the plan’s future land use map included a purely residential zone, which was changed to mixed-use at the request of the council, town planner Peyton Heitzman said in her presentation Tuesday.
In developing the future land use map, town staff put together a brief analysis of Eagle’s current housing and estimated future housing need, which was included in the presentation Tuesday.
The town has a total of 2,252 units of housing and has approved the construction of an additional 1,561 as of June 2021, according to the report. These new units will be built on portions of the roughly 795 acres the town of Eagle has annexed since 2014.
“On the basis of affordability … (Eagle) has a small (200-unit) shortfall for households at 60 percent (average median income) and a 160-unit shortfall at 140 to 160 percent (average median income),” according to a 2019 regional housing report cited in the town’s analysis.
“Those conditions, however, are likely to change over the next 10 years, when a 1,100-unit shortfall at 60 percent (average median income) and a 150-unit shortfall at 80 to 100 percent (average median income) are projected to emerge,” the report stated.
The more than 1,500 housing units approved for construction should help to meet this increased need and there are few commercial/industrial areas for developments that support a growing population beyond the Chambers, Eby Creek, Market area, the plan states. For this reason, residential development in the area is limited to 12.3 acres of mixed use.
In a previous meeting, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission was concerned that too much residential space had been taken out of the plan, Heitzman said.
Commission members expressed concerns that the 1,500 units of housing may not be enough to meet the town’s needs, with some saying that the decision to remove residential zones from the future land use plan in East Eagle could “limit flexibility” and “prohibit development in the area,” Heitzman said.
“I think it looks great,” Mayor Scott Turnipseed said of the plan Tuesday, adding that he was surprised by the commission’s concerns.
Town Council member David Gaboury pointed out that “there’s no really substantial single parcel” in the current plan that could support a big box store and it would be nice to have that option. He suggested combining three parcels into one and zoning it as interstate commercial, effectively eliminating the sole mixed-use (commercial and residential) area.
“I know there is, right now, tremendous sensitivity around this housing issue but … we have more than 1,500 (units) on the books,” Gaboury said.
Council member Geoff Grimmer disagreed, saying that the internet has made big box stores much less relevant and called for the town to take its developer up on an offer to run a more comprehensive housing study to assess whether the new 1,500 units would be enough to meet the need.
Council member Janet Bartnik advocated for maintaining some residential space but said she did not think the town needed another housing study and Turnipseed agreed, saying the town already has plenty of housing data available.
The mixed-use parcel should allow for high-density, multi-family housing to be built above office spaces and other shops and more mixed-use space should be added, a project developer who called into the meeting proposed.
This would allow for commercial space as well as space-efficient housing to bring more employees and consumers to the area that will buy things and generate just as much sales tax revenue for the town as a larger retail shop would, the developer said.
Turnipseed said this was a good point and said council members should take some time to think things over further. The council agreed to schedule a joint work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission in the coming weeks to discuss the future land use map further.
The town is also working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to establish a “wildlife corridor” where local populations of elk and mule deer can continue to migrate through the east Eagle area after development.
“The community recognizes that development of east Eagle will disrupt wildlife movement through the property, however efforts can be made to minimize any negative impacts,” the plan states.
The wildlife corridor will go under a preexisting I-70 overpass and lead into an access point to the Eagle River, where the town plans to build a park, according to the land-use map.
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