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Vail Daily’s Don Rogers: Eagle River Station on familiar path

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado

Game on. Again. Eagle River Station is back for a townwide vote.

The Eagle Town Board this week set a referendum for May 22 on the 88-acre piece of pasture between Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 just east of Chambers.

This is so two years ago, when the town’s voters turned down the shopping center and residential development by 156 votes.

Of course, that’s why they’ll vote again on a new proposal. Out of 2,194 votes cast in January 2010, the last proposal lost by 156 votes.

It’s not hard to see why ERS is back for another vote. What is a bit curious is how little it has changed, really.

Condo units for sale became rental units now. The project is 30 percent … larger (?), though planned in phases.

Target and Whole Foods- like anchor stores won’t be as public about their interest this time.

But this basically is the same proposal as before. And I still support it. (Don’t worry, opponents. I live just outside the town boundaries and cannot vote.)

Plenty of folks I know, like and respect will disagree with me, and that’s OK. It’s also why an election is the best way for the citizens of Eagle to decide something this important.

We just don’t really need to excoriate our neighbors for having the wrong opinion, you know?

The planning commission and Town Board are not populated with craven, wicked, horrible excuses for humanity, because they saw enough they liked in the proposal to approve it.

The nonsense some opponents are spewing in their understandable zeal for their cause is just that, and it’s unfortunate, frankly. The leaders who studied and approved the development are not morally or intellectually deficient. They are not rude, mean, base, greedy people.

They simply concluded that Eagle River Station makes sense. You don’t have to agree. You can hate the very idea of a shopping center east of Chambers, between a freeway and a highway, well separated from the rest of town.

You just don’t have to make it personal. And if you still feel the need to go there, well, at least look in the mirror first.

I see the benefits more than the risks economically or to Eagle’s quality of life. Eagle River Station has to pencil out before it is built, and the location is among the best in Colorado for the project.

The “leakage” of shopping dollars in Eagle County to out of the area is 37 percent, according to the studies of this. That means there is plenty of potential for the first well-done shopping center in the valley to succeed quite well.

Access to the wildland around Eagle would not be impeded in the slightest. There’s nothing remotely pristine about 88 acres of pasture at the end of industrialized Chambers Avenue, between the interstate and the

highway.

The only impact on Eagle’s well-hidden downtown(s) would likely be positive. A few more visitors would explore these treasures is all. And refugees from urban life could safely enjoy their Eagle Ranch experience untrammeled by stores miles away, next to the … freeway.

The developer is reputable and successful, even in the teeth of the Great Recession. Nothing would be built without the proper commitments settled first. And if they can’t get those commitments, they won’t build. The developer would stay on to manage what they build. The town has done the legal work to protect the town economically. The location for retail is about as good as it can get – for shopping success and for not getting in the hair of residents.

Local construction job prospects improve dramatically. The long-term town plan for the area has been for a shopping center, and it makes perfect sense. The town actually would be able to better market itself effectively, and well as improve quality of life amenities with the critical mass the center would provide.

Is there risk? Of course. But there’s more risk in listening to opponents talk about all the other ways to drive Eagle’s economy without bringing anything to the table in the two years since the last election on Eagle River Station. They kind of had their chance.

So it’s reasonably clear to me that approving Eagle River Station is the better course.

I do hope Eagle’s voters go for it. But I won’t think less of anyone as a person for having a different conclusion. That’s why we vote.

Let’s just try to avoid insulting each other while we’re at it.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.


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