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New Edwards plan waiting on water

Veronica Whitney

“We can live with traffic, but we can’t live without water,” Dave Lach, a member of the Edwards Metro District board of directors, told the Eagle County Planning Commission at a public hearing Wednesday on the the proposed Edwards Area Community Plan.

If adopted, the proposed Edwards Area Community Plan, an update of the 1985 Edwards Sub-Area Master Plan, will guide land use, transportation, water, housing, economic development, recreation and open space in the Edwards community.

“This is a growth-management plan,” said Rebecca Leonard, a senior planner with the Eagle County Community Development Department. “The old plan has been a good plan. Ideally you want to update these plans every five to 10 years.”



Water, Leonard said, is the main issue of the summer, but the emphasis changes as issues change.

For example, people attending recent public meetings said traffic is the No. 1 issue in Edwards, ahead of protecting open space and building affordable housing. Results of a telephone survey of 700 residents in Edwards conducted in June by Eagle County confirm those concerns.



But with streams flowing at just 20 percent of their normal levels – something not seen for centuries – the water situation is now on people’s minds, too, Leonard said.

“If we have problems with water, we need to get pretty tough,” added Planning Commissioner Evelyn Pinney-Levine.

“If you approve something like this, it will take a lot of resources,” said James Gilbert, a member of the Edwards Area Community Plan Update Committee, which helped develop the plan.



Leonard said density has been one of the sticking points in developing the new plan, and the current Edwards plan addressed it in very general terms.

Robert Warner, another member of the update committee, had proposed a limit on density of one housing unit per acre; the county, meanwhile, is proposing four units per acre.

Originally, nine units per acre was being discussed, Leonard said.

“When you measure density, you need to look at the open space that will be part of the property, if there’s any,” Leonard said.

The proposed Woodland Hills residential development in Edwards, for example, has a density of eight units per acre because of its lack of open space.

By comparison, the Eagle River Village mobile home park has a ratio of three units per acre because part of the property includes several acres of open space.

The Eagle County Planning Commission, responsible of adopting master plans, could adopt the new plan, which Leonard said is just an advisory document. The implementation tools are still the land-use regulations, which are the law.

Planning Commission Chairman Dan Seibel said it will take a few months to refine the proposed plan.

“The only way I can progress through this document is paragraph by paragraph,” he said. “And one of the questions that yet has to be answered is water.”

Highlights of the proposed Edwards Area Community Plan:

Water

– Adequate potable water and sanitary sewer service for existing and proposed development.

– Protecting surface water and groundwater.

– Conserving water through reuse and other methods.

Land use

– A limit on density of four units per acre.

– The protection of natural resources and environmental systems.

– Balanced growth through designating adequate acreage for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural uses.

– The protection of social, cultural and historical resources.

– The regulation of excavation activities.

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Transportation

– Future connector roads.

– Modes of transportation modes that protect the environment.

– Completion of the Eagle County trail system within the Edwards area.

– Improved public transportation.

Housing

– Affordable housing based on the Eagle County Comprehensive Housing Plan and the Eagle County Master Plan.

– A variety of housing types, sizes and value.

– Housing that’s close to employment and community centers.

Open space

– Preserving Edwards’ most environmentally sensitive lands as open space.

– Determining the most valuable ecological and cultural elements for each proposed development site.

Note: A draft of the Edwards Area Community plan has been posted on the county’s Web site: http://www.eagle-county.com

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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