Residents debating big boxes in Eagle |

Residents debating big boxes in Eagle

Kathy Heicher

EAGLE – A standing-room-only crowd filled the Eagle Town Board chambers Tuesday evening to continue the debate over the proposed Red Mountain Ranch development.Developer Merv Lapin is proposing a “mixed-use” project on 442 acres of land, east of Eagle, that would include 363 housing units and 450,000 square feet of commercial space – enough to accommodate big-box-store development. Review of the project will continue through spring.As has been typical during the months of public hearings on the project, opponents of the project were in the majority. However, there were some supporters in the audience this time around.Eileen Hall, a resident of Eagle Ranch, said she currently makes monthly shopping trips to Denver, and regular trips to the big-box stores in Avon.”We would love for our dollars to stay in Eagle. We need some conveniences here,” she said. Surveys and economic studies indicate that 90 percent of Eagle residents regularly make trips to Glenwood or Avon to shop. Town officials have been concerned about the resulting “leakage” of sales-tax revenues outside the county. August Whittenberg of Eagle also spoke in support of the project, saying the infusion of commercial properties could make up for lost taxes. “If you manage it right, it can work … This isn’t a thriving retail community, right now. We’re barely making it,” he said.Fred Butler, the owner of several commercial properties in downtown Eagle, said he was not against the project, but suggested making it smaller.”People don’t come to Eagle County for the purpose of shopping. They come here for recreation, and country life,” Butler said.Jaime Walker, a lifelong resident of the valley, urged protection of Eagle’s small-town character downtown businesses such as the pharmacy and the bike shop.”Avon can have the big boxes. Eagle can have a unique character,” she suggested.Town Board Member Kraige Kinney said one concern is that shortfall in sales-tax revenue would require an increase in property taxes.Eagle resident John Hammed spoke of his pleasure in seeing 30 to 40 elk browsing in the meadow that is targeted for commercial development.”After all the facts and figures, I get down to the elk herd. That is what I came here for,” said Hammond, adding that he would willingly pay more property taxes if the town is short on revenues.Additional hearings on Red Mountain Ranch are scheduled on April 12 and April 26.Vail, Colorado

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