Vail Daily letter: Doubts about development |

Vail Daily letter: Doubts about development

Robin Smith
Vail, CO, Colorado

Last week I went to a meeting of the trustees of the town of Eagle. The meeting was billed as the final one where public comment could be made on Eagle River Station before the trustees decide whether to approve the project and send it to the voters in May.

For those who don’t know, it is a huge project of stores and up to 500 rental housing units. On completion it will have over 700,000 square feet sitting on nearly 90 acres. That’s much bigger than the new mall in Glenwood, where there are now a number of very large mass retailers. ERS will be right off I-70, a sort of gateway and billboard for Eagle. Will it be a happy marker of success, a grim visage of smalltown culture twisted, or a partially occupied collection of dreams unfulfilled?

At the meeting, the turnout by the public was meager — probably not 20 who were unaffiliated with the town government or the developer, RED, from Kansas City. Of the 20, five women and one man chose to enter their comments orally. (Was there a game on TV?)

If ERS is successful, a very big “if,” imagine the impact on the little town, our county seat. It would fill the coffers, reorient the town, and more. Instead of a small town, Eagle could be a sort of “burb.”

There would be cheering by some and a lot of moaning by others. Instead of a town for “livers” we could be a town for shoppers. Silverthorne would quake. But the impact would not stop there. How would Gypsum react? What about Wolcott where there is reported consideration of stores? Then Edwards and Avon would wonder how to react. For starters they might raise the ante on developer incentives and maybe lower the sales tax, too. This thing could gobsmack everyone in Eagle County in some way.

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What input did these towns put in at the meeting? What input were they asked for? Who knows? They were not there nor their views represented.

We live in one single valley in Eagle County stretching from east Vail to Dotsero. So let’s hear what the county officials say about this project, if anything. We didn’t.

We did not even hear an explanation of why people are going to patronize these shops instead of those where they live in Avon, or Denver, or London. And we are going to need a lot of those shoppers. The residents of the town are not many and not rich.

We did hear, rightly, about the bureaucratic details such as taxes and sidewalks and water, etc., but little about the meat and bones, the demand and the kind of merchandise that will entice all these folks to come to Eagle to shop.

My suspicion is that the voters in May will not trust their town’s future to a “build it and they will come” mentality. That would be too bad if this is a real opportunity for the town and the county to gain some economic traction.

At this stage I don’t think the voters and the county residents have been given enough information by the one group they must have faith and trust in to show them clearly why they should be pro or con. They cannot rely on the developer, as good a they may be. Hopefully, the county officials will put their thoughts out front, too.

Of course, the voters themselves should demand help deciding and listen to the arguments before voting should that occur in May.

Tuesday night’s turnout did not seem a good omen for that, however. Maybe it is time for the 4th estate to awaken us, investigate and educate on this very wide-reaching project.

Robin Smith


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