Opponents: Eagle River Meadows too much
EDWARDS, Colorado – It was supposed to be a night to talk about transportation and finances at Eagle River Meadows. But local residents wanted to change the subject.Setting up shop in the Battle Mountain High School auditorium, the Eagle County commissioners went over some of the technical details of the Atira Group’s proposal for the eastern end of the former B&B Excavating gravel mine. The developers have proposed nearly 400 housing units along with more than 260,000 square feet of commercial space for health and wellness businesses.Lance Badger, of the Atira Group, talked to the commissioners about potential traffic impacts the project would have. The big number is 500 – the projected number of cars per hour at peak times the center would put into the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Edwards Spur Road. That number, though, is a small fraction of the 4,740 cars per hour at peak times expected to clog the intersection by 2030.Badger also talked about ways the community could pay for the multimillions in road improvements needed to handle traffic over the next 20 years, even if Eagle River Meadows isn’t built. Given that state highway funding ranges from skimpy to nearly nonexistent, the most likely solution would be creating a special district that could use property taxes to issue bonds to pay for more lanes and other improvements.But after hearing details about highway improvements, how the project would affect the ECO Transit system, the proposed trail network and a possible bridge to link the north and south sides of the river – and give a second way to get to the Brett Ranch Villas and Lake Creek Village apartments – residents wanted to talk about the bigger picture.Some in the audience wanted to talk about what Edwards would lose if Eagle River Meadows is built.Lake Creek resident Elizabeth Holland was on the committee that helped create the Edwards Area Community Plan a few years ago. She told the commissioners that group’s main focus was “quality of life.””This doesn’t add to that,” Holland said. “This is more like being in Denver’s suburbs than being in the mountains.”Old Edwards Estates resident Debbie Marquez also opposes the project. She told the commissioners that the north side of the property – now proposed for more than 200 housing units – should be left as open space.”We consider ourselves rural, and we want to stay that way,” Marquez said.But resident Suzanne Hoffman-LeBlanc told the commissioners that Eagle River Meadows would enhance the quality of life in the valley.Hoffman-LeBlanc is the CEO of Vita Prospera Enterprises, a venture that’s trying to bring health and wellness businesses to the valley. She said she and other community members have looked at several proposals for health and wellness centers since 2005.”We believe this is the best one,” she said.Edwards resident Rick Mueller agreed that Eagle River Meadows could provide a positive spark for the valley’s economy.”You’re either growing or you’re dying, and we’re dying,” Mueller said. “People are moving out of the valley.”Mueller said medical care could help the valley move its economy away from its almost total reliance on tourism and real estate.The public hearings about Eagle River Meadows will continue at least into July. Even if the commissioners ultimately grant “sketch plan” approval, numerous other hearings will be required at the next approval level, called “preliminary plan.” That next level will address the plan at a more specific level.Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.