Join together for Eagle |

Join together for Eagle

Tim Cochrane
Special to the Daily

I am writing today on behalf of the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce. As CEO, I am keenly aware of the growth issues facing Eagle, Gypsum, and the entire county.

Recently I read a column by Fred Schmidt and Jay Willoughby titled “Growth can work.” I read with interest of how they are forming a group to generate ideas, provide input, and encourage residents to be more involved. These are very commendable ideas.

I would like to demonstrate how the chamber has been a leader in these areas and specifically what actions and results are already being implemented with regards to their platform.

The Eagle Valley chamber has been involved in finding solutions to this issue for the past six years. We have worked with the Town of Eagle to develop a downtown task force, spearheaded the recent streetscape project and been instrumental in the creation of new zoning allowing for a third-story residential component, clearer parking regulations, and incentives. This has all been done to improve the Broadway commercial area.

Our next initiative is the expansion of these regulations to encompass the entire 16-square block of the central business district.

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The chamber has adopted a strategic goal to investigate the creation of an “enterprise zone” from the Gypsum exit along Highway 6 to the west gateway of Eagle continuing along Grand Avenue to Broadway. This includes looking at work force housing options, regional commercial projects, with high density along the south side of Highway 6. We would also like to create a recreational corridor along the Eagle River.

We support the build out of the existing commercial areas like Chambers. We are encouraged by projects like the proposed Eagle’s Nest, which is a 100,000-square-foot center located at the end of Chambers (thus filling in development from the inside out).

Worthy of special attention is the coordinated effort of the chamber and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District to bring athletic tournaments to the Eagle area. These events fill hotel rooms, restaurants, and shoppers abound. This year the chamber will bring three regional events to the Eagle River Center: The Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, the Healing Arts Festival, and the Holiday Artisan Fair. Together, we continue to explore ideas of how to increase sales tax revenues.

All of these are ongoing initiatives and we encourage getting involved with the chamber since we have the track record of getting things done.

Remember one man’s “blight” is another one’s right to develop their property or not. Unless human safety is at risk, I suggest we use caution when calling private property “blighted.”

The chamber has worked hand in hand with the Town of Eagle in reviewing the many avenues of funding that are available. And, yes, there is more than one suggested way to do this. Recently I had the pleasure to work with a small group who were meeting with a renowned retail consultant. They offered four distinct avenues that would allow us to reach a funding mechanism for various retail zones within Eagle without creating an “urban renewal authority.” An urban renewal sounds pretty big city not small town. The recent survey from the Eagle Area Community Plan open house overwhelmingly confirmed the direction the residents of Eagle want to take: to remain a “small town.”

This idea is certainly not new, but does need constant addressing.

Commissioner Menconi has taken the lead in this countywide issue. He formed a Blue Ribbon Committee to address this priority issue stemming out of the Urban Land Institute findings in December. I and several other Eagle citizens sit on the larger committee. Eagle’s Mayor Jon Stavney has an active role. This group formed a smaller working group and the chamber has a board member sitting on this group.

My point is that we do not need another ad hoc group, so please get your selves involved in helping find solutions. The problem is well identified.

I believe I addressed this above ” the incentives are already in place.

I again suggest that if you are sincere in exploring ways to increase revenue (Eagle River Station aside) I welcome you (and any citizen) to contact me for more information on our strategic plans and ways to get involved.

In summary, let me reiterate that I applaud any citizen who is willing to get involved. Banding together is a coveted right afforded by our constitution. I would never discourage your right to speak out.

However, there are several groups with a like purpose: the Downtown Merchants Association (formed in conjunction with the chamber to represent downtown-specific interests); the Chambers Avenue business owners (the Eagle Valley chamber has held one meeting with them thus far and foresee many more); and the Eagle Valley Chamber has three board members working on the Eagle Area Community Plan update.

It is important to note that the Citizens for the Future of Eagle has been very involved in various downtown efforts, including finding the retail consultant who will help with the expansion, and they have been exploring various type of events that Eagle could host. They have offered many other suggestions and alternative solutions for economic development along the lines of your same concerns. In offering an open door, I suggest we all work together to explore all solutions especially those not even thought of yet.

Some will note that the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce Board has not addressed Eagle River Station, nor will they. The Eagle River Station application is deep in the town’s process. The chamber board supports that process and salutes the efforts of staff in this endeavor. If this application becomes slated as a ballot issue, the chamber is prepared to host a series of forums in an effort to inform the voters of their choices.

Tim Cochrane is the CEO of the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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