Sales tax could fund road projects in Edwards
More than money
In addition to asking for a sales tax increase, the Edwards Metropolitan District is also holding a May 3 board election. Four people are seeking three seats — incumbents William Simmons and Kara Heide, and challengers John McCaulley and Kelly Malin.
It’s not too late to request a mail ballot if you didn’t receive one. Go to http://www.edwards-colorado.org for more information. Ballots can also be dropped off until 7 p.m. on May 3 at the office of the district’s designated election official, 28 Second St., suite 213 in Edwards.
EDWARDS — There are times driving to Wolcott is better than trying to turn left in parts of this community. Voters are being asked to tax themselves to help fund needed road improvements.
The Edwards Metropolitan District — which includes a good portion of the community’s residential area and the majority of its businesses — is asking voters for a sales tax increase this spring.
According to Ken Marchetti, of Marchetti & Weaver, an accounting and special district management firm in Edwards, the tax would add 1 percent to sales tax charged at businesses within the district — The Riverwalk and the surrounding areas. That tax would last until 2040, then be reduced to .5 percent.
Even with a 1 percent tax, Edwards’ sale tax would be among the lowest in the Vail Valley, at 5.4 percent. The rate in Vail, Avon and Eagle is 8.4 percent.
The idea is to provide revenue for road improvements. The two busiest roads in the area are U.S. Highway 6 and the Spur Road between Interstate 70 and Highway 6. Those roads are improved and maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, a traditionally cash-strapped agency.
Kara Heide, a member of the Edwards Metro District Board of Directors, said the state agency for years has required matching funds from communities — at least 20 percent — before considering improvements to highways it controls. Edwards has pledged a 10 percent match. Eagle County would put up the remainder of local funds.
That’s what’s happening now in Vail, where the town has contributed nearly $9 million to a $30 million project to build a new underpass to link the town’s north and south frontage roads.
But, Heide said, Edwards is looking west for examples of how to work with the state. The specific example is in Eagle, where the town put in roughly $3 million a few years ago to build the roundabouts along the spur road and U.S. Highway 6.
“Eagle just made it a budget item for several years,” Heide said of Eagle’s matching fund.
Present and Future Need
While the sales tax could accumulate until there’s enough money in the bank, it could also be used to pay a revenue bond to more quickly improve the roads in Edwards.
Heide said final decisions haven’t yet been made about how to proceed, or, in fact, what projects might be built.
But, Heide said, there’s no doubt of the present, and future need.
Right now, the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Hillcrest Drive — the only way into and out of the Lake Creek Village apartments and Brett Ranch Villas condos — often sees serious backups during morning commute times. The backups are especially bad for those who want to turn left — east — onto U.S. Highway 6.
“I’ve had people there tell me when they’re going to work in Vail, sometimes they’ll just turn right and get on (I-70) at Wolcott,” Heide said.
Besides current congestion, more development is coming. The Fox Hollow subdivision — between the Edwards Interfaith Chapel and the Eagle River Village mobile home park — is becoming more active. The once-dormant West End project — located just to the west and north of the Gas House restaurant — is back before the Eagle County Commissioners.
Those developments will add a number of new cars to Edwards’ roads.
With development in mind, the first $1.5 million of new sales tax revenue would go toward improvements at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and the spur road — again, there are options, but no final plan. The two most-discussed options are either widening the existing road or building a roundabout. A decision on which will be planned is due this spring.
Other improvements would be funded over time.
While the fate of the tax proposal has yet to be decided, Heide said she’s been impressed with the level of community involvement about the issue.
“I’m really proud of our community,” she said. “The public meetings we’ve had on this have been really well attended.”