Letters to the editor
Selling town short
“The trustees have stopped listening to their friends and neighbors,” reads an attack ad printed in the Enterprise and the Vail Daily. This charge comes from a small group of landowners on Brush Creek Road who, understandably, would like as few neighbors as possible.
As the Eagle trustee who moved to put the debate over density in final platting of Eagle Ranch Tract O to rest on Oct. 14 (for the third time in three months), I feel compelled to respond. In fact, there has been a lot of listening going on at Town Hall regarding Tract O. The response is simply not what some upstanding citizens want to hear.
As for the charge about the board “completely disregarding the Eagle Area Community Plan,” those are belligerent words.
The Eagle Area Community Plan was written in 1996. In 1998, the Town Board, of which I was a newly elected member, held almost weekly marathon sessions trying to digest the 1,270-unit, 1,569-acre Adam’s Rib Ranch PUD proposal for a gated community with four private golf courses and a hotel smack in the middle of the Brush Creek Valley.
Our primary planning tool was this very document. Adam’s Rib effectively began at the 10-year boundary, just past the new recreation facility, and pushed seven miles on past the 20-year boundary, nearly nine miles up the Brush Creek Valley from Highway 6. Had Adam’s Rib passed, it would have cast the Brush Creek Valley in a distinctly “resort-second home” atmosphere.
Eagle, a middle-class family-oriented town, would have relegated itself to doormat status, and often during negotiations it was clear that the developer already viewed the community and its planning documents as such.
That same year, the Town Board reviewed (West) Eagle Ranch, a PUD for 1,100 units on 1,575 acres, using the same planning yardstick.
Startling contrasts between the two developers began with regards to the desire to integrate with and enhance the best of what Eagle has been about, and was made most conspicuous by the clear use of the Eagle Area Community Plan as a guiding document.
Reread this document and then drive through Eagle Ranch. It would be extremely difficult to contend that the Eagle Area Community Plan was ignored! To say so is to insult the developer, town staff and anyone who was a part of this vision.
Eagle Ranch proposed to devote 738 of the 1,575 acres as open space, and to dedicate a 2-mile-long, 145-acre park to preserve the riparian corridor along Brush Creek. Homes near the creek were buffered with open space. Contributions to the town included sponsoring a new town park with a community-built playground, a pavilion, and an arts-and-crafts building, not to mention a community garden, an 185-acre PUBLIC golf course, and miles of recreation trails – millions of dollars of amenities, all constructed at the developer’s expense for the benefit of ALL RESIDENTS.
Eagle Ranch even contributed $200,000 towards the recreation center. Yes, all these amenities helped the product get marketed, but they were in no way exclusive of the public good.
Eagle Ranch has, in fact, raised the bar on many an Eagle resident’s expectations regarding everything from how a street light should look to the color palette of multi-family buildings, to ease of travel to a movie. I recently heard an Eagle citizen comment that Eagle does not have enough bike paths and pedestrian trails! If you don’t think that reflects expectation inflation, ask any long-time resident about pedestrian access 10 years ago.
When amended this summer to include the yet-to-be-built medical facility along Sylvan Lake Road near Highway 6, the Eagle Ranch developer requested to shift some of the “lost density” to the BLM trade parcel to the south of Eagle Ranch (356 acres) and throughout remaining plats.
At the urging of Town Board and staff, Eagle Ranch was asked to find an appropriate parcel for platting smaller, individual-sale lots to fill the gap between the Village Homes and Fieldstone’s turn-key products, and the larger “golf course” lots. A build-it-yourself friendly niche south of the golf maintenance facility was proposed on Tract O. That proposal, originally approved with a range of 32-48 units, would have become a 65-unit plat. Lots would have been sized comparably to those in the Terrace.
Residents along Brush Creek Road were in an uproar, as were some neighboring Eagle Ranch residents, about how this would devalue nearby homes. It was claimed that such density was inappropriate so far from the town center. Under this pressure, Eagle Ranch retracted the proposal, and a glitch in the notification procedure required that the entire amendment to go back through the process this fall again, this time quietly with no changes to the original PUD agreement in Tract O.
Then, last month, Eagle Ranch came before the town with a final plat request for 44 units on Tract O, four fewer than the allowed 48 units (32 plus 50 percent is how it is written in the PUD). The same neighbors were back, and there was some listening going on when the plan was adjusted to widen the open space buffer along the river to keep a fair distance from two existing Brush Creek owners whose properties encroach across the creek.
A cul-de-sac on the river side of the road was removed, and the number went down to 43 units. These owners made it clear that even though any more reductions would likely come from side of the street against the hillside where the reduction would barely make a discernable impact on their views, they were still not satisfied.
Today, nearly eight years after the Eagle Area Community Plan was written, there are fingers of Eagle Ranch that extend beyond the 10-year boundary and some parcels broach the 20-year boundary. What seems difficult to accept is that these were clearly understood and approved of as part of the original plan for the whole of Eagle Ranch PUD in 1997. After accepting the medical facility and related density shifts, not to mention all the other amenities that the developer has paid for in the meantime (which the community so enjoys), that to renege on these agreements at this point and put this specific plat under the microscope of the community plan would be in bad faith, and having our cake and eating it, too.
Town of Eagle Trustee,
Kudos to Avon Postmaster David Ruechel, our officer in charge since April last year. After weighing in through a 6-month U.S. Postal Service procurement process, Dave had the Avon Post Office roof and drainage problem permanently fixed with landscaping and a new concrete pour.
“How does this affect me?” you ask.
Well, with all the enthusiasm of a marathoner having the stone removed from his shoe after 26 miles, I can report your Avon Post Office front door will work this coming spring instead of being locked or screeching like finger nails on a chalk board as it has in the past. Last year, water would collect under the concrete, freeze, then raise the side walk enough to prevent the front door from opening. So, when you see Dave at the front counter next time or on the slopes, this winter be sure to thank his remarkable persistence with the U.S. Postal Service procurement process.