Locals want cheaper homes in Edwards | VailDaily.com

Locals want cheaper homes in Edwards

Special to the DailyThe West End, proposed for 5.3 acres of land just west of The Gashouse near Edwards' main intersection, would have as many as 185 condos with 70 of them affordable.

VAIL ” Jose Lozano said it’s tough as a young professional to afford to live in the valley.

The proposed “West End” project would bring needed affordable housing to Edwards, said Lozano, who said he has lived in the valley most of his life.

“Hopefully myself and a lot of my friends, true locals, can stay around,” Lozano said.

The West End project, proposed for 5.3 acres near Edwards’ main intersection, would include 185 homes ” at least 70 of them affordable ” plus stores, offices and restaurants.

The site is just west of the Gashouse restaurant on Highway 6 and just north of the Eagle River Preserve ” 72 acres of open space recently preserved by the community.

It would be one of the most bulky developments in Edwards, according to county officials, but would create more worker housing in Eagle County.

A recent report by the Urban Land Institute said the county is headed for “difficult times” if it does not build more housing. The study said the county needs 500 to 600 cheap homes per year for the next 20 years.

But several nearby residents voiced concerns about the project. Some said it would bring more traffic to an area that’s already congested.

Current traffic problems need to be solved before more cars are put on the roads, said Chip Howard, a Homestead resident.

“There are too many people in this area already,” he said, adding that he doesn’t object to the affordable housing facet of the project.

Howard’s wife, Laura, said she’s opposed to the roundabout that might come with the project, saying it would be too close to Edwards’ main intersection.

“You are just going to clog the roundabout,” she said.

Bob Ladd, president of the Homestead Owners Association, said he worries the project might get approved too quickly to make sure it is a good project for the community.

Brian Bair, a representative for the development company, Louisville-based Midtown Group, said prices increase each month he has to wait.

“Time is very important to us,” he said, adding that the owners of the land might sell it and abandon the project if they have to wait too long.

The project was before the Eagle County Planning Commission on Wednesday. Commissioners tabled the discussion until Aug. 1, asking for more information and lower prices for the affordable housing.

The developer envisions a “live-work” development with several plazas that’s transit- and pedestrian-oriented. But planning commissioners said the affordable housing would be too expensive for many workers.

A 600-square-foot studio would sell for $258,000.

“The people who are workers there will not be able to afford it. Period. End of story,” said Ellen Eaton, a planning commissioner.

The developer has agreed to also set up a real-estate transfer tax that would bring in $3 million-$6 million over 10 years to buy more affordable housing.

Bair has called the housing plan “unprecedented” and “generous.”

The county is negotiating a public-private partnership with the developer that could increase the affordable housing at West End to closer to 80 units, and lower prices. The planning commission did not consider that scenario Wednesday.

The center of Edwards is a good place for a dense development, and the Urban Land Institute study encourages bulky buildings, Bair said.

“Let’s put density where density needs to be ” in the commercial core,” Bair said.

Leigh Pezzicara of Edwards said she appreciates that the developer is trying to improve pedestrian access in the area. A trail and a crosswalk are part of the proposal.

“I totally support this project,” she said.

Dave Osbourne of Eagle said he likes the worker-housing aspect of the project.

“As a family man trying to make in the valley for the last 13 years, I appreciate the emphasis placed on employee housing,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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