New ‘Edwards Overlook’ in the works |

New ‘Edwards Overlook’ in the works

Cliff Thompson

EDWARDS – A new developer has 680 acres overlooking Edwards under contract for purchase and he’s hoping to create an exclusive enclave of 35 acre homesites surrounded by U.S. Forest Service property.Last week Jeff Ryan, a developer from Texas, applied to the Forest Service for an access permit for a 6.7-mile road across public land to the property known as the Edwards Overlook. The upside-down horseshoe-shaped parcel is perched about a mile above Beard Creek directly north of the entrance to Singletree. That road would require 40 acres to 50 acres of public land.It’s the first step of what could be a two-year-long review of the project by the Forest Service, officials said.Three summers ago a group of developers attempted to build a similar project, but ran into stiff opposition to the project from Edwards residents, and also discovered they would need an 18-month to 24-month-long – and expensive -environmental review before the Forest Service would consider allowing the road. They subsequently backed out of the purchaseThe land contains what’s considered critical winter habitat for deer and elk and also contains an endangered plant, the Harrington’s penstemon.”The property has tremendous potential,” said Ryan “We want to try reach out to the community to see what they think would be the best way to design it so it works for the community.”While Ryan said his plan is still “very preliminary,” he’s hoping to avoid the controversy that dogged a previous development proposal on the land by avoiding ridgeline buildings that would be highly visible. He also wants to restrict homeowners to building on a single lot and limit motorized access to prevent unplanned trails and roads, he said. On the other side of the Eagle River Valley, Cordillera, Bachelor Gulch and other areas have ridgelines that are studded with buildings. Many object that building on ridge peaks ruins scenic views.Second go ’roundThree summers ago developers has planned a similar project with 19 homes connected to Edwards by a $5 million, 8.4-mile road through Forest Service land. They subsequently dropped that development proposal when they learned it would cost $100,000 or more to conduct an extensive review known as an “environmental impact statement.”The area is used as a migration corridor in spring and fall by nearly 6,000 mule deer on treks to and from the high country to lower elevations near Wolcott.Owners of private land surrounded by public land are guaranteed access across public land to their land by the 1980 legislation, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.”It provides access so people can have reasonable access to and enjoyment of their land,” said the Forest Service’s Howard Kahlow.The Edwards property has long been a candidate for a land swap because the Forest Service wants to reduce the number of landlocked “inholdings” it has in the forest, Kahlow said.”We would like to trade it away to the town of Avon or Eagle County or some other entity,” said Kahlow, adding there are other pieces of land that could be included in the trade. A potential swap for the land would require the developer’s interest to be purchased. That land would then be given to the Forest Service, which in turn would give the purchasing entity a piece of its land elsewhere. One such piece is a 480-acre parcel between Singletree and Avon that the Forest service wants to give away in order to get land that fits into the rest of the forest better.Eagle County wouldn’t be able to use its open space tax money on this project because most of the $2.9 million generated this year has been committed to purchasing the 72-acre Eaton Ranch in Edwards. That $12 million purchase will be accomplished by a public/private partnership.The trade option is not favored by Ryan, he said, because he doesn’t know who wants to trade what and, he said, the average swap can take up to three years.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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