Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity | VailDaily.com

Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Harry Frampton

(To) Mr. Arn Menconi, Mr. Peter Runyon, Mr. Tom Stone – Eagle County commissioners. Gentlemen:As you know the Vail Valley Foundation will be coming before the Eagle County commissioners on Jan. 20 to request a $6 million commitment to facilitate the purchase of the Eaton Ranch. We have great appreciation for the difficulty of committing that amount of money to one project in the county as there are many other worthwhile endeavors. At times like this, it is often beneficial to reflect on decisions that defined the valley. We are reminded of decisions the leadership made in Vail on several projects, which were even more controversial, that have now stood the test of time. Both the Dobson Arena and the library in Vail were initially turned down and were extraordinarily controversial. Many people also thought that the preservation of Ford Park was a terrible mistake. As we know, it has proven to be a model of public, non-profit and private partnership. In the “State of the County” presentation, Tom highlighted several significant and successful partnerships which benefit citizens of the county. Great decisions never have 100 percent consensus. It is our belief that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure a legacy of open space and a spectacular view corridor for an extremely populous part of our county. We recognize there is much open space in the Eagle Valley in the mountains, but it is critically important that we maintain meaningful open space in our valley. As you know, preservation of open space is at the heart of smart growth. There, of course, can be no better example than Ford Park. Can you imagine Vail without it? Although the Eagle River Preserve will be more passive than Ford Park, we are convinced it will have an equally important impact on the quality of life in our Valley for future generations. Some people feel that we need to preserve that land for commercial development. I believe, however, that the most important economic development action you can take to ensure the quality of life in our community and the economic vitality of our community is to protect this parcel. One-hundred percent commercial development throughout the valley core is just not what the citizens of this community or our visitors want. Others have also suggested that we sell off part of this parcel to commercial interest to help fund its preservation. We, too, think this would be wrong. The integrity of the park would be significantly compromised. The Eagle River Preserve is not suited for partial development in that it does not break up into natural pieces. This feature makes well intended “public purpose projects” very difficult in that they would negatively impact the natural view corridors and the uniqueness of the site. In summary, this is a special and unique opportunity and we hope you will vote yes. In doing so, your 50 percent acquisition commitment will result in 100 percent ownership. It is an appreciating lifetime gift to the county’s citizens. On another note, there is good news from the foundation. Over the last 60 days we have been able to get firm commitments of $500,000 to exercise our option on Feb. 1. (We were able to get this option extended to facilitate your meeting on the 20th). We have communicated to those contributors that this money would only be used if we get the full $6 million commitment from the county. If we are not able to get this commitment, we will have to let the option lapse, as we just do not have the financial resources to take that risk. But the even better news is that we have received $1.5 million of firm commitments and have hand-shake deals on another $2 million. This combined $4 million of contributions, coupled with your $6 million, puts us within striking distance between now and September when we actually have to purchase the land. We are extremely optimistic that with a positive vote from you, we would create the momentum to finalize our 50 percent share of the purchase. Obviously, your funds would only be used if we are able to raise all of the money and the appraisal comes in at $12,000,000 or more. Of course, we also remain committed to raise additional dollars over and above the purchase price in the two years after the purchase to facilitate smart improvements to the site. Finally, as a part of our commitment it is our intention to work closely with the Urban Land Institute and you to initiate a long-run strategic planning process that would be helpful to Eagle County. We appreciate the willingness of all three of you to be supportive of this project. We look forward to what we hope will be an affirmative vote and working cooperatively with the entire county staff to ensure an incredible open space legacy for the children of this county. Harry H. Frampton, head of East West Partners, is the chairman of the Vail Valley Foundation’s board.Vail, Colorado

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