Let’s be smart with Edwards land | VailDaily.com

Let’s be smart with Edwards land

Rick Hermes

Editor’s note: The following is a letter to Eagle County Commissioners Arn Menconi, Peter Runyon, Tom Stone and Vail Valley Foundation President Harry Frampton:As you are aware, Community Concepts is currently under contract on the 105-acre B&B property directly west of the 72-acre Eaton property, which you are jointly considering for open space. The B&B parcel consists of 35-40 acres of developable property, approximately 20 acres of wetlands, and pristine undisturbed meadow on the remaining portion. I have enclosed a current aerial photo for your perusal so that a clear distinction may be made between all parcels.I moved to Eagle County in 1991 and have been fortunate to watch our county and my friends and family grow and prosper both culturally and economically. I have also been fortunate to be part of a successful development and construction team that employs hundreds of individuals with families living in Eagle County. Community Concepts was built on the foundation of honesty, hard work, determination, and most of all communication. Our primary focus on community involvement has led to strong commitments with Habitat for Humanity, Eagle Valley Christian Academy, Eagle Valley Christian High School and numerous other charitable organizations.Please accept this letter as an invitation to jointly explore planning options on our collective properties. I propose that before any further hurried decisions are made regarding the Edwards area vision we all sit down together and explore the possibilities of finding a balance between smart growth and open space. Together, dividing lines reflected on the aerial photo may be erased and a comprehensive Edwards plan created that responds to existing needs. Blending open space and community building is possible without depleting precious county resources, while working to preserve the cultural focus of the Vail Valley Foundation.My family and I enjoy and respect the wonderful valley in which we live and all that it has to offer. However, more than just open space is needed to preserve our children’s future. If we want to protect Eagle County’s future generations, let us insure a vibrant lifestyle centered on a neighborhood community – not only a resort. We need to remember that Edwards is not simply an entry to Vail. It is a real place with real people and real families who desire to live, work and play in their own back yard.We have the opportunity to craft an inclusive neighborhood that can be an example of smart growth used throughout Eagle County. This prospect allows for public recreation, active open space, passive open space, and cultural event venues that will enhance Edwards. Proper coordination between private and public entities may provide a balance that benefits everyone. My hope is that with input from Edwards’ citizens, we can all try to put the pieces together in an efficient manner for the common goal of Eagle County and unincorporated Edwards.With this in mind, I would like to share a glimpse of my vision that may accomplish Edwards’ goals in a meaningful and appropriate manner. In an effort to open the lines of communication between all of our organizations, I would like to propose the following ideas in a joint venture:Active Open Space:– Pedestrian trail systems, including links to other Edwards areas. — Controlled public access points to Eagle River.– Nature center-natural science school.– Children’s park, sledding area, etc.– Edwards Community Center.– Wildlife viewing area.– Lawn area:Passive Open Space:– Protection of Eagle River corridor with a minimum 300-foot Ddevelopment zone setback.– Protection of wildlife habitat in undisturbed areas.– Enhancement of existing wildlife habitat.Smart Growth with Cultural and Sustainable Green Community Building:– Residential Areas with intermittent pocket park areas to provide pedestrian friendly neighborhoods and lifestyle centers.– Expanded pedestrian connections and boardwalks for a cohesive user-friendly Edwards.– Comprehensive residential opportunities for diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. An inclusive rather than exclusive neighborhood community. Eagle County residents receive first opportunity to purchase, perhaps with assistance to promote first-time home buyers.– Varying density levels to allow for move-up within the community, including variations in product and pricing.– Streetscape and village atmosphere for pedestrian-friendly living with market style shopping.– Minimal commercial development based on existing needs – no “big boxes.” — Green-building practices utilized to promote environmental foresight.– Dual-use educational facility. Day care and children’s education during the day; higher education classes in the evenings.– Children’s fountain and park with ice skating, climbing wall, etc.– Amphitheater for cultural performances.– Hot air balloon launch site.– Possible use of transfer tax to promote cultural amenities, events and maintenance.– Space for Eagle County Transit above public parking to allow Edwards and Eagle County residents to park and ride, thus reducing traffic and providing easy access to ski areas and other Eagle County amenities.Smart growth recommends development in infill areas where infrastructure already exists. Prevention of this type of development causes sprawl to areas outside of infrastructure, thereby increasing cost and pressure on existing services. Thus, it is prudent to look at the B&B and Eaton parcels collectively to determine how best to maximize open space while following the principles of smart growth.Again, I ask that we jointly look at the possibilities of a vision that does not require an overwhelming use of public funds but instead requires a commitment to preserve and maximize open space while allowing for exploration of new ideas that may lead to smart growth practices. Let us use our minds first and our money second. Perhaps we could produce a plan that accomplishes our vision and display it for public comment to allow for a more enlightened public process.Please do not let our differences rally short-sighted special interest debate from those who are ill-informed on both sides of the issue. It is our duty as community leaders, businessmen and fellow stewards of the land to not allow this type of rhetoric to continue, but instead seek out proper awareness to grow as communities who share a beautiful county and the common goal to keep each community unique in character. All of us desire open space and recognize its importance in preserving our Western heritage and quality of life. Let us also acknowledge that we are a community built on the backs of those who come here to experience what we are fortunate enough to live every day. People will continue to move to Eagle County for the same reasons we are here. If we want to remain a strong community, we need to accept that growth will happen. Let’s be smart about this inevitable growth and choose to be a county that can lead other Colorado counties by example. Let’s prove that through open communication between public and private entities, smart growth and open space planning can occur in unison.I cannot guarantee you that it will be an easy task to get everyone to agree on an appropriate plan. However, I can guarantee that the time given to exploration of new ideas and careful deliberation given to all options at our disposal will be well worth the effort. Thank you in advance for your time and thoughtful consideration.Rick Hermes is the manager of Community Concepts, a development company based in Edwards.Vail, Colorado

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