Land eyed by conservationists worth $12 million
EDWARDS – It’s worth it. Supporters of the effort to purchase and preserve 72 acres of land in Edwards celebrated another victory Wednesday when the parcel was appraised at between $12 million and $13 million. The purchase price is $12 million.County Commissioner Peter Runyon said he wasn’t surprised. Still, some feared that the Vail Valley Foundation – the organization leading the fund-raising effort to preserve the parcel as open space – were being asked to pay too high a price. Rick Hermes, a local developer who attempted to buy that land, couldn’t get an appraisal for $10 million about a year ago, Runyon said.”I felt as though we all sort of intuitively knew it was going to go there,” Runyon said. “Property values have been going up at almost 15 percent a year in the midvalley.”David Clayton of the Englewood-based firm of Husperger & Weston, LTD did the appraisal. According to foundation officials, Clayton is experienced in appraising open space in Colorado and his work is accepted by Great Outdoors Colorado, a group familiarly known as GOCO that gives grant money for open space.The Eagle County Board of Commissioners has agreed to contribute $6 million toward the fund-raising effort, but that donation was contingent on the land appraising for at least $12 million.
County Commissioner Tom Stone, who cast the lone vote against giving the $6 million, said he was glad the property appraised “appropriately.”Stone supported using the county’s open space tax – totaling about $3 million – toward purchasing the land and preserving it as open space. The property, better known as Eaton Ranch, lies in western Edwards, near the Eagle River and has been used as a gravel pit until recently. The ranch is owned by Bruce Eaton and Winifred Grimshaw-Edwards.However, Stone said he still disagrees with the board’s decision to pull $3 million out of the county’s general fund – used to pay for general operating expenses – to meet the Foundation’s entire $6 million request.”I think the county still owes the people a discussion about if this is a wise use of money,” he said. Commissioner Arn Menconi, who supported the expenditure, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.Since the county decided to contribute to the cause, the foundation has raised an additional $2.5 million, said Ceil Folz, the organization’s president.
“The good news is, if you consider that we started in September needing to raise $12 million, we are three-fourths of the way along,” Folz said. “At the same time we certainly recognize that oftentimes the final dollars are hard to come by.”The group has until Sept. 1 to raise the full $12 million.Eagle County plans to apply for a $500,000 GOCO grant in hopes of adding to the foundation’s fund-raising total. However, the regional representative, Gypsum resident Joan Harned, has expressed concerns about purchasing and preserving that parcel. There have been no discussions on how the land, if purchased, will be maintained as open space, she said. Harned’s concerns are valid, Stone said. “I have voiced my concerns to the Vail Valley Foundation that if Joan Harned is not in favor of this, I think they are going to have a difficult time getting GOCO to offer a grant,” Stone said. Runyon, however, said he is optimistic the foundation will be able to raise $12 million by the Sept. 1 deadline.
“I know that a lot of people say why should I give? That’s double taxation because the county taxes me and they’ve come up and given money,” Runyon said. “It’s more important than that. I know that I’m going to be giving money.”It’s a cause worth contributing to because it will prevent land in the valley from being developed, Runyon said.”That, to me, is worth looking at,” he said. “It’s stepping up to the plate and saying that’s not the kind of community… that I moved to the mountains for.”Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado