Suzanne Shepard: Get involved in Eagle River Station meetings
Hello Eagle residents,
I am an outsider, according to the past Eagle Town Board. Yet I have an Eagle address, I shop, bank, eat and am confronted daily with traffic propels in Eagle. I go to some of the town board meetings because I care about the community. I have great respect for the time, energy and questions being asked by the planning and zoning commission regarding the Eagle River Station development over the past several years. I know what a serious job it is, having served on a planning commission for five years in another jurisdiction.
Last Thursday, the commission recommended that the project be denied. They recognized the noncompliance with the Eagle Area Community Plan (ECAP) of 1996, designed by thoughtful citizens and accepted by both boards. Now, it will go to the cTown Board. They will review the testimony given to the planning commission and have to do their own review without prejudice. How will it help or harm Eagle and will it ever produce any revenue for the town?
So, where are you residents? Why are you not asking questions about this development as well? No time? We all are busy! It is your town and it may affect your financial future. It will fly in your face every time you drive up or down I-70. It will create more serious traffic jams than the ones that exist. A proposed east interchange on I-70 will funnel more traffic onto Chambers, Highway 6 and the Eby Creek roundabout. Construction traffic will be on Chambers Road in front of the post office and at the Eby Creek interchanges for perhaps two years!
What am I talking about? First, the Town Board of Trustees had to declare the beautiful ranch to the east of the Chambers Road commercial area a “blighted” area. Then the board will float revenue bonds with the developer for urban renewal. Urban renewal was originally devised to help restart decaying inner cities, not beautiful green pastures with spectacular views. Who will pay in the end? Everyone. Urban renewal bonds are subsidized by the government and have become a tool for developers to get a cheap loan for their projects.
When will the town benefit? Perhaps in 20 years, if the developer is successful and they pay off the cost of all the infrastructure. In the meantime, they get most of the sales tax revenue, we get all the headaches. The town is deeply in debt with the sewer plant project because not enough money was garnered from the Eagle Ranch developer and others at the time of approval. Is Eagle River Station scheduled to help with some infrastructure costs? Yes, but will it be enough with 581 new residential units bringing thousands of new residents to Eagle? If not, someone else will have to pay, as residential development does not pay for itself. So you can assume that neither the commercial or residential development will have any positive effect on revenue for the town.
This project is a commercial/residential mixed-use project. It is being called a “lifestyle center”. These particular developments were failing all over the country prior to the recent oil price surge, according to an article in the July 17 edition of The Wall Street Journal. While most residents of the county want to live, though not always possible, in a single family home with a fenced back yard, the residential portion of Eagle River Station is comprised of multi-story “walk-ups” (the developer’s terminology), and in some cases over retail shops. You can bet none of the developers have ever parked in an adjacent parking lot with groceries that have to be carried up five floors! Yes, five floors. The buildings will be up to 65 feet tall, according to the original annexation documentation. Nothing in Eagle is currently that height! Taller buildings may be a practical plan for a resort area with a good transportation plan like Vail, but not in a flat, open area. The Lapin property is one of the county’s real treasures along the I-70 corridor, a perfect strip for open space on the edge of Eagle.
The town’s planning staff has offered some positive suggestions to the developer, such as to reducing the maximum building height to 45 feet, and is encouraging a conservative approach to lighting to protect the night sky. But Eagle River Station still doesn’t comply with the Eagle Area Community Plan.
By the way, the current County Commissioners and county planners have expressed their concern about this development. One reason is because the logical place for an interchange is to the west of Eagle, either at the fairgrounds or the airport and where the commercial Gateway development is. If an interchange is built to the east, trucks and travelers will be on Highway 6 for a long time to come. It is unlikely we will get more than one interchange in the near future because of the growing demands in metropolitan areas.
I urge you to go to the proceedings and to tell the Town Board what you think. Will you tire of meetings and be bored? For some of it, yes. But that is what the developer is hoping. They get more of what they want that way. Everyone should be informed about what is going on in their community. You residents elected the new council and they should listen to you. The local processes are as important as any national issue because it affects us all directly. As the the town’s master plan directs, let’s keep our small town and improve what we have from the inside out. It is our little domain and we don’t need people from out of town deciding how we should live.
See you at the meetings!
Suzanne Shepard is an Eagle County resident and a member of the Citizens for the Future of Eagle. E-mail your guest column to firstname.lastname@example.org.