Newcomers involved in Eagle’s future
EAGLE, Colorado ” For the past year, the town of Eagle has trudged through a painstaking process to plan for its future.
The Eagle Area Community Plan update seeks to revise the wide-ranging growth policies originally adopted by Eagle and Eagle County back in 1996.
A 17-member citizen’s advisory committee has been working with town staff and consultant Rebecca Leonard of Aspen-based Design Workshop to rewrite the policies.
Public input meetings have been an integral part of the process, generating considerable comment from citizens. A couple of weeks ago, an open house session saw upwards of 100 participants. That’s a remarkable level of interest, said Leonard, who recently conducted a similar series of community meetings for a Reno, Nev.-area master plan. At those sessions, she was lucky if four residents showed.
Who is participating in the community plan process? Leonard provided a quick demonstration during the Feb. 27 open house. She asked for a show of hands of people who had participated in the last community plan. Only around one-third of the audience raised hands.
The process is drawing in many of Eagle’s newest citizens ” mirroring the town demographic showing that the average resident has lived in town fewer than five years.
Here’s a sampling of the faces of the Eagle Area Community Plan:
“Eagle has a real sense of community, that’s not something you should take for g
ranted,” says Doug Dusenberry.
The Dusenberry family ” Doug and his wife Laurie and three children Jackson, Olivia and Grace ” has chalked up almost two years of Eagle residency. They live in
The Orchards neighborhood. Doug is employed by Gore Range Natural Science School while Laurie works for Oracle.
They came to Eagle after a 15-year stint at Park City, Utah. The Dusenberrys have enthusiastically embraced their new community. “We came to the area for our family and my job and it was such a fantastic
fit,” says Doug.
Laurie enthusiastically talks of the 28 kids who live on their street, noting that Eagle is a great place to raise children. During the summer months, the Dusenberrys bike all around town and they especially enjoy frequenting the businesses on Broadway.
They call themselves “public process kind of people.” That’s what brought them out to the community plan open house. Their main concerns are traffic and sprawl.
Doug cited congestion during morning and afternoon commute times, particularly noting the difficulties around Market Street during the early evening. “Park City was a very fast-growing mountain town, and they didn’t even have this level of congestion.”
The Dusenberrys question the wisdom of building a new, auto-dependent shopping area near Interstate 70, as proposed at Eagle River Station.
Rather, they envision more retail directed downtown where residents can walk or bike to shops.
Traffic also ties to the Dusenberrys’ second major concern ” additional development in the Brush Creek Valley. Laurie notes the town’s current roadways can’t support another large development. Rather, the couple would prefer to see clustered, mixed use development ” which would include residential and commercial spaces ” closer to town. They want to see the Brush Creek valley retain its open, rural character.
“One of the things that makes this area unique is the wildlife,” Doug adds.
The Dusenberrys plainly acknowledge they are newcomers to Eagle.
“But I feel, when you buy into the town, you have a right to talk about its future,” says Doug.
“We have the chance to do it right,” adds Laurie.
Eagle is at a critical junction, says Eagle Ranch resident Linda Miner.
Miner has lived in town for 6 1/2 years. She and her husband, Mike, are parents to 5-year-old twin boys, Declan and Conal, and their 4-year-old brother, Nolan. Linda works as a real estate agent for Prudential; Mike is the superintendent at the Beaver Creek Golf Course.
Why is she willing to take time away from her busy family life to participate in the community plan? Because she loves raising her kids in Eagle. She believes her boys are growing up in a town that embraces them and cares for them. She want’s the town to stay that way.
Miner sees the community plan process as an opportunity. “Every place in the valley is growing, but Eagle really has the chance to do it right.”
She enjoys the atmosphere and amenities at Eagle Ranch, but is frustrated by the town’s growing traffic problems. “When they were first doing Eagle Ranch, they didn’t even have to consider traffic, and now it’s a mess.”
Miner questions additional development in the Brush Creek Valley. “When you are living with the traffic as it is now, I’m not sure how we could handle 1,200 more units.”
She also mentioned Eagle River Station as one of the biggest issues facing the town. Miner notes the town has a lot of expensive projects on the horizon. She says the commercial center may be a necessary evil that could provide much-needed finances for the list.
“I don’t know where the money can come from. We need more retail.”
Scott Schlosser is a meetings regular. He frequently attends Eagle Town Board and planning commission sessions, and has done so for the past eight years.
Schlosser is a 16-year county resident, a Realtor and owner of Eagle Valley Realty. His wife also owns an Eagle business ” Juniper Moon Hair Saloon. For six years, the Schlossers did the reverse commute ” traveling from their home in Edwards to their jobs in Eagle. Last year, they purchased a new home in The Bluffs subdivision.
He’s a fan of the 1996 plan. “They did such a great job on the first one, I’m a bit frustrated about the time it’s taking to do the update,” says Schlosser.
He believes one strength of the community plan is it identified areas where residential and commercial growth could occur. He believes that framework addressed the accelerated growth Eagle experienced during the last few years.
The big questions, in his mind, are planning for Eagle River Station and the Haymeadow property, south of Brush Creek Road.
When it comes to commercial development, Schlosser is unsure of the answer. “I’ve been working to try to sell commercial properties for five years. We don’t have the number of people yet to support the mom-and-pop businesses.”
As for Eagle River Station, Schlosser said he might be a bit more in favor of the proposal if it were scaled back, and if specific retailers ” as identified by the community ” were part of the plan. “But as with any large-scale development, if it went bad, it could go really bad. It’s just too risky.”
As he offers his opinion about the community plan, Schlosser believes Eagle is a special place. “We have so much of what other places in the state or county are trying to re-create on a contrived basis. Eagle is a pleasant place to live, and the future should be about smart growth.”
In contrast to the many newcomers who have participated in the community plan process, Debbie Darrough has been an Eagle resident for almost two decades.
“When we first moved to Eagle 20 years ago, our friends in Vail thought we were moving to Utah,” she jokes.
After living for 18 years in the same home on Third Street, the Darrough family ” Debbie and David and children, Ashley, Andrew and Austin ” now reside in the Upper Kaibab neighborhood, where deer and elk routinely visit their front yard.
She fondly recalls her early years in the town, when services were limited, and monthly trips to Grand Junction or Denver were family outings. Today’s traffic jams are a big concern.
“I’ve lived here a long time, and it’s just in the past year-and-a-half that it’s gotten really bad,” she says. “Don’t even think about going to the grocery story at 5 p.m.”
Darrough attended the recent open house out of curiosity. She wanted to learn more about how the master plan was shaping up. One display at the meeting particularly caught her eye.
The 1996 community plan included growth boundaries ” areas where Eagle anticipated growing during the coming five- and 10-year time frames.
“Eagle grew way beyond the boundaries,” she noted. “Who would have thought? It has grown threefold from where the town and county thought it would go.”
Darrough has some definite ideas about future growth in the community. “I am opposed to the Eagle River Station plan. I don’t think Eagle can handle that. We already have a ton of empty commercial space in town.”
Additionally, Darrough wonders where the employees will come from to staff the large commercial center. She notes a quick glance at the newspaper is all it takes to see there’s an employee shortage in the valley.
Finally, she questions the developers plan to build a new I-70 interchange east of town for the development. “My biggest concern is putting in another exit, and we all still come to the same roundabout.”
Ty Ryan has a problem with how car-reliant Eagle has become. He hopes that can change.
“Everybody lives south of Highway 6, and all the services are north of Highway 6,” he explains.
Ryan recently purchased a home in Eagle. He’s lived in the community for about a year, and is employed by Eagle County’s engineering department. He is single.
Ryan attended the recent community plan meeting to find out what direction the process is headed. He wasn’t shocked by any of the information presented, but he was intrigued. The open house led him to take a closer look at the community plan information presented on the town’s Web site.
Ryan likes the idea of setting growth boundaries for the town. “I like the ideas of having some open lands surrounding Eagle.” He also advocates some form of public transportation. “A bus system is something I would personally use.”
His initial reason for moving to Eagle was simple ” he wanted to live close to his work. “Now that I do live here, I want to at least have a little say about the town. And if there is something that concerns me, I do get my say.”
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