Letter: Eagle River Station a good thing
Eagle, CO Colorado
Regarding the Vail Daily’s March 13 editorial regarding Eagle River Station:
Thanks to Scott Miller for his editorial about the new Eagle Town Council and the proposed Eagle River Station. First, all candidates for trustee should educate themselves about the facts, not just the emotional reactions to this project.
Truly, the undefinable “character” of Eagle will change by adding a mixed-use project. The town’s character also changed when the livery stable closed, The Terrace developed, and Eagle Ranch became a reality. We live in a dynamic environment, and change happens.
Downtown Eagle changed when it received much-needed sewer repairs and a facelift, and Broadway looked beautiful at Christmas. With the work, around 70 parking spaces were eliminated, and parking is difficult. Downtown sales tax generation is less than 7.5 percent of the town’s total sales tax receipts. We clearly cannot depend on Downtown to solve our revenue issues, even though we enjoy being there. There are necessary sewer repairs to do on other streets, but no money in the budget to pay for them.
Eagle River Station creates funding for a much-needed new interchange, upgrades to Chambers Avenue, a water tank, and water and sewer lines as public infrastructure. These are paid for by new sales tax revenues that we don’t currently have and won’t get without a substantial development. None of the sales tax revenue used for repayment of bonds goes into the pocket of the developer for private development. Contrary to what you might hear, the “Eagle Taxpayers” will not be paying for the new infrastructure by digging deep into their pockets. Those who pay will be the ones who buy things, whether they are from Eagle, Gypsum or New York. This is surely preferable to not getting the infrastructure improvements at all. The town itself has no risk. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is widely used to fund improvements in Colorado, as people in Estes Park and Pueblo are happy to tell you. This is important. Everybody should become fully informed about how this funding mechanism works.
It is shocking to discover our dependency on sales tax revenue for money necessary to serve residents. Some say they would rather pay more property tax than have new development. Please look at the town budget at http://www.townofeagle.org. Only a small portion of revenue comes from property tax. On my own new, inflated tax bill, only 3.15 percent went to the Town of Eagle.
On the other hand, commercial enterprises pay property tax at a rate that is about three times higher than residential. New retailers will be paying property tax, and most of that will go to support the town, fire and ambulance districts, Library district, WECMRD, the school district, and the county. With a mixed-use development contributing property tax from retail, hotel and residential, this number should be significant. The retailers also pay for their own water usage, snow removal from the parking lots, and maintenance. Not only do they provide local jobs, but they contract locally for HVAC service, cleaning, electrical maintenance and so forth.
Our best shot at revenue now and in the future, is having a professional, experienced developer with important ties to national retailers develop this parcel. Eagle already passed on two major income generators. The Airport and Costco are in Gypsum and took the money with them. If Eagle ignores retailers who want to be here, there are significant projects pending in both Avon and on Highway 6 in Gypsum. The same tenants are prospects for all the projects, but they will want to go to the best one together. There will be only one “winner.” We could lose the opportunity forever. Chambers Road is not a viable alternative for any of this group of tenants. If Gypsum develops, we have all the traffic, and no revenue. With either alternative, we leak current revenue by going out of Eagle to eat meals or to shop at Coldwater Creek, Chico’s, American Eagle and other likely retail prospects. Why would we even consider letting these potential businesses go outside of Eagle?
The long-term needs of our residents are not served by indulging in wishful thinking and ignoring reality.
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