How tall should Eagle River Station be?
Eagle, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado ” Building heights and community character were among the topics last week as the Eagle, Colorado Town Board continued to wade throughout the details of the proposed Eagle River Station commercial and residential project.
Representatives of Kansas-City based RED Development presented 3-D simulations of the proposal to present their case. The high-tech tactics failed to impress audience members, most of them wearing “No ERS” buttons and voicing concerns about the height, mass and character of the project.
“The developer is trying to take a normal urban project and fit it into Eagle instead of saying, ‘What fits Eagle?'” said audience member Brandi Resa.
Town Board member Stephen Richards, who is an architect, urged the developers to consider changing the architecture to reduce the bulk of the buildings.
He noted that ERS proponents are proposing building heights ranging from 44 to 62 feet. Elsewhere in town, the limits are 35 feet in most neighborhoods, and 42 feet in the central business district. He called the proposed heights for the ERS buildings “a big step” for Eagle.
“Eagle’s character is basically a two-story kind of town … I think you’ll find the board adamant about keeping the visual appearance of the building smaller,” he said.
Still, Stephens didn’t rule out the proposed building heights.
“I’m open to a 62-foot building height … but a good design goes a long way to eliminate the barrack effect,” said.
Fellow board member Scot Hunn agreed. He pressed the developers for models of the proposed buildings, noting the board has been asking for such a representation for the past two months.
“The three-dimensional models didn’t do it for me tonight. There are different ways to break down height and mass,” he said, “We’ve got to see something different.”
Board members also said they want to conditions in any development approval that would guarantee construction of employee housing occurs simultaneously with the construction of commercial properties.
“If there is no trigger to start the residential development, we’re going to be in the same situation as Avon. … We have a perfect example in this county of a project that stalled out 10 years into the process,” said board member Yuri Kostick, referring to the town of Avon’s present quarrel with the developer of the Home Depot and Walmart complex.
Mayor Ed Woodland said the developers have agreed to bring on workforce housing in the first phase. Michael Hans of RED said it was understood that the workforce housing and commercial development were tied together. However, the developers were asking for the ability to change the start date of future phases of housing based on the sales of prior phases.
Kostick questioned whether the 581 residential units on the site were too much at a single location; and suggested that the developers be allowed to provide some employee housing off-site.
However, Woodland countered that the developers proposal for the on-site housing had originated with the town staff, many months ago.
“I personally think the off-site mitigation alternative is a better plan … but this train has left the station,” he said.
The board and the developers also discussed sign and lighting standards. Eagle has traditionally enforced some restrictive standards on sign sizes and heights. The town also has a light code aimed at protecting the night sky from pollution.
“We’re not going to leave things to people’s (developers) discretion,” said Woodland.
Audience member Jan Rosenthal-Townsend, a constant opponent of the project, drew Woodland’s ire with a bluntly worded critique of the development proposal. She called the project a “strip mall with a Western facade,” and referred to the proposed signs for the project as “butt-ugly.”
“If any of you board members are buying into this, it is absurd,” she said.
Woodland responded that he was hoping for a “little higher” level of dialogue from the citizens.
“You’ve lost all objectivity. You never had any,” he said.
Audience member Trevor Theelke praised the development proposal, noting that there is commercial development along Interstate 70 the length of the valley.
“This project gives people an opportunity to purchase real estate in Eagle County. … If it goes to Gypsum, we still get the traffic congestion,” he said.
The Town Board and developers opened up discussion of project financing on Nov. 19. That discussion will continue next month.