Plenty of space still remains
Do you want to have a say on how the county should grow in the future? And where new development should go?Even though there is a new Super Wal-Mart and The Home Depot in the valley and it seems a new house breaks ground every day, half of the developable land in Eagle County is still available for development, county officials say.”There still is a lot of development opportunity in Eagle County. We’re at 50 percent buildup, the zoning is there,” said Rebecca Leonard, a senior planner for Eagle County.County residents are invited to give their opinions to county officials who will make a final decision this summer on the a revision of county’s so-called “Master Plan.” If adopted, the new plan, an update of the one approved in 1996, will guide land use, transportation, water, housing, economic development, recreation and open space in unincorporated Eagle County.”The master plan belongs to the citizens of Eagle County in as much as they help contribute to its development,” said Pat Hammon, chair of the Eagle County Planning Commission. “The Eagle County Planning Commission strongly encourages involvement in the planning process since the plan will guide the future of the county for years to come.”Public planningBeginning Monday and continuing through the first week of April, planning officials will hold several meetings across the county to discuss with residents the proposals included in the new master plan. Based on analysis of comments and input received during an earlier round of meetings, county planners and consultants will provide an overview of six areas the plan will focus on: transportation, economy, housing, sensitive lands (wildlife areas), water, community facilities and services. The master plan will include a land use map and policies for development.Suggestions from each community meeting will be used by the planning commission to update the policies and maps in the plan. “This master plan is essential and it’s important that it gets done in a way that the community wants it,” Leonard said.”It’s important that people come and voice their opinions,”: she said. “The public input will help us determine what the policies of the plan will be and what the final maps will end up looking like.”In the past months, county planners, using 30 maps, have been studying the proximity to neighborhoods of facilities likes schools, fire an police departments, recreation facilities, ambulances and wildlife. These maps will help analyze the most appropriate place for development.”We’re looking at the best places in respect to proximity to those facilities and we are using that as indicators,” Leonard said. “For example, we have eight times more commercial zoning available than what is already built. With the information we have now, we can ask the developers where their workers might live.””Refine and renew’Although the master plan is and advisory document in Colorado, the Board of County Commissioners will have the final say on any development, Leonard said.”The plan doesn’t apply to the incorporated towns, but I expect that town officials will get involved, too,” she said. “We’ve been trying to keep the towns involved and the analysis countywide is inclusive of the towns.”Once the policies are adopted,” she added, “they are applicable only to unincorporated Eagle County, unless the towns also believe the policies are a good idea and they adopt them themselves.”An example of how the county’s decisions affect the towns is transportation, Leonard said.”If we start talking about mass transit, I would assume (the towns) want to be part of the county’s vision on that. The same with services and facilities,” Leonard said. “It’s important that we work together on countywide issues which have big impact on the towns.”Leonard said she expects the planning commission to vote on the master plan in the summer.”Our goal with this update is to refine and renew the mission,” she said. “We want to redo the analysis because the data has changed in the past years. Data sources are more accessible now and we have better tools to analyze data than before.”Another goal of the new plan is to consolidate different parts of the existing plan, she said.”We want to consolidate it in one user-friendly plan,” Leonard said. “The more people that get a say, the more opportunity there is for implementing it down the road. There will be lots of big decisions to make in this master plan so it’s important that people get involved.”Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.