Vail Daily letter: Irony and ERS | VailDaily.com
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Vail Daily letter: Irony and ERS

Jan Rosenthal Townsend
Eagle, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

After reading Jon Stavney’s endorsement of Eagle River Station, I had to giggle at the irony, since Sheryl Degenring’s article (which appeared right after Stavney’s) poignantly illustrated author Stacey Mitchell’s’ reasoning behind how big boxes have been detrimental to small communities. Get her book “Big Box Swindle.” More of this documented logic about box stores can be found at http://www.amiba.net.

Even more ironic is that I gave that book to all the trustees two years ago for Christmas. Stavney told me he already had a copy. He even went out to his truck and brought it in to show me all the notes he had made in the columns.

The perplexing thing is that I have an e-mail from May 6, 2007, between Stavney and a member of our citizens group wherein he says “I read extensively over the past few years on the disintegration and attempts in regenerating downtowns across the nation.”

He goes on to mention Mitchell and other authors and says, “I am aware of the dichotomy of the values in planning circles between downtowns and the storied suburbs and big boxes that have damaged them. There are worthy case studies and some retailers, such as Walmart have obliterated downtowns as a strategy.”

The statement that really resonated with me is when he said, “I have chosen to live in Eagle because I believe that much of what has been created in the last 50 years in the built-environment around the U.S. is damn pitiable and probably ought to be criminal if we were a more sensible species. I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Commissioner. So, if what you said is true, why even contemplate ERS for our small town?

The “no” campaign’s mailers and ads (which are paid for by numerous donors from all around town) have been totally fact-based and the one Stavney referred to says, “Does the developer think we’re stupid?” Nowhere in ads has the opposition called “yes” voters stupid.

We’ve all heard the so-called promises, heard about the “less than ideal” situations with RED’s funding and with their contractors in Lee’s Summit, Mo, Blue Springs, and now City Scape West in Arizona (log onto http://www.votenoers.comfor more details).

Despite all of that, we would like to ask all of our intelligent friends and neighbors, “will you spend 40 percent of your income at ERS?” ERS’ market study is 3 years old, doesn’t account at all for the recession, incorporates Glenwood as their primary market area (even though they have their own Target) and to reach their financial projections, assumes that people will drive 45 minutes and spend 40 percent of their income at ERS.

We strongly disagree with those assumptions. And, please remember, we are mostly opposed to ERS’ mass and scale. It’s not just a proposed Target and the green grocery store just announced two weeks before the vote (neither of which have shown us their letters of intent) It’s 88 acres, two-three box stores, a main street like Broadway, hotel, 581 condos at 62-foot heights, 2,800 parking spaces, etc.

ERS would be almost 40 percent bigger than Glenwood Meadows. I’ve done various field trips to Glenwood and have photos that prove the big box lots are not full (even at Christmas). For those proponents who like to use Glenwood as a model for success, Glenwood’s downtown gets 1000 times the traffic Eagle gets since it’s located on a major highway running right to Aspen, one of the richest towns in the nation. But there are still dozens of empty store fronts all over downtown Glenwood!

Many of us choose to do business with our neighbors and just about anything else we need can be found at either City Market or the The Eagle Pharmacy. They are our biggest tax producers and inevitably sales tax dollars will just shift from one side of town over to ERS for the same products. The only difference is that the consumer (you) will have to spend an extra 1.3 percent PIF tax at ERS. That money goes back to the town.

Stavney mentioned that every major town along I-70 has a big box. That is exactly why we don’t want one here! Eagle is unique and we don’t want or need to be Anywhere, USA.

Carbondale and many other towns are exceptions to the rule. Hundreds of towns have fought big boxes and won. Carbondale is a good example. They fought a big box and they are still a happening town, even in these tough times.Why? Because it’s unique.

Stavney said he doesn’t like the “pot, pawn and porn” coming into Eagle. He also mentioned our empty storefronts in the same breath. I have to ask, just how is ERS going to help with that?

The one thing he doesn’t talk about, and it’s a big part of the equation, is that we have had very weak leadership in Eagle for many years. No planning and absolutely no foresight. No “thinking outside the box.”

We, as a citizens group, brought a renowned planning consultant (PUMA) here in 2007 to help do some economic development planning for Eagle, and they were turned away by our town manager and by Stavney, who was mayor at the time.

Want more money? Sooner than later? The most varied shopping opportunities are on the Internet and that is the way of the future. Lobby the state and the feds, like other towns are doing, and tax Internet sales in Eagle. You’ll have your “millions for improvements” right there.

The biggest mistake by some of our town leaders is that we have continuously ignored Gypsum, which is still willing to revenue share with Eagle, to share road costs and revenues from national retailers.

I believe they would be true to their word and uphold their annual agreement, like they have with Costco. Or,craft another agreement. Gypsum has the infrastructure and, as Stavney said, they would say yes to ERS in a minute. However, greed is standing in the way because Eagle wants it all for themselves.

It’s very discouraging that under our town manager’s tenure (25 years) and under former Mayor Stavney’s and current Mayor Woodland’s regimes, no talks have resumed with Gypsum for this very win-win situation. Gypsum would get the big boxes where they belong (in an industrial zone) and we would share in that without destroying our gateway to town.

In conclusion, many are lobbying for ERS because of tax money and potential jobs. But the ERS “deal” is without any guarantees whatsoever. If Eagle ever “thrives” due to ERS, it will be years and years away. Commercial real estate has not even hit rock bottom yet.

The real freeze”will occur if ERS is approved Jan. 5. People will not invest or move their businesses here while ERS looms in the future.

I respectfully urge all voters to vote “no” on ERS Jan 5. Then let’s all come together and insist that our town leaders get a real economic development plan in place. A real vision. One that we can all buy into. One that will truly benefit us for generations to come. Now, that will be something to talk about with our neighbors.

Jan Rosenthal Townsend

Eagle


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