Valley Voices: Eagle proposal not based on reality
Vail CO, Colorado
Eagle River Station has presented to the planning and zoning commission their plans on such topics as wastewater, transportation, housing and wildlife. In my opinion, the developers and their various consultants are presenting us with assumptions only, thus, we are no closer to evaluating Eagle River Station on a real life model than we were two years ago when this process first started.
There have been various letters exposing some of Trinity/Red’s and Eagle River Station’s ) nuances. I, myself, have heard typical developer rhetoric at these meetings, thus the following are my conclusions.
Trinity/Red recently reduced their project’s overall retail square footage to 555,000, but there are still big and junior box stores and some of that reduced commercial was on land they didn’t even have a contract on ” the southeast corner of the proposed interchange. Eliminating the equivalent of a half a Costco store does not make this massive project any more palatable, especially with no transition of the commercial to residential from west to east, as called for in the 1996 Eagle Area Community plan. Four-hundred-and-thirty-one homes are located on the west end, sandwiched between the existing commercial on Chambers Avenue and the new commercial at Eagle River Station. The larger format stores are still all on the east side next to pasture land. This makes no sense.
One of developer’s principals made the analogy of Eagle River Station to a “lifestyle center” they built in a suburb of Madison, Wisc. A lifestyle center is still a mall any way you cut it. But with that equation of 225,000 folks compared to the 51,000 who reside in Eagle County (Eagle River Station’s primary market area), I guess it’s only fair to give them one brownie point since the difference between the two is only by 174,000 people. The school was eliminated, but there is a designation for some kind of institutional use in its place. Parking spaces (the sea of asphalt) was reduced from 3,800 to 2,800 spaces. Building heights were lowered from 65 to 45 feet, however, there are still some 65-foot precipices, and the back sides of all the buildings are visible from I-70. Open space includes planter boxes and shrubs, and it was noted that many of the larger trees that would shield the buildings would take 25-plus years to grow. I do, however, applaud Trinity/Red’s attempt to look like heroes by nixing land in their original plan that they never intended to develop, They are now at least trying to appease the community by reducing the overall size.
The proposed east Eagle interchange does nothing to reduce Eagle’s traffic nor one thing to alleviate traffic at the main roundabout, which is where the real snarl is.
Trinity/Red’s public relations agent, Paul Witt, mentioned several reasons why a west interchange doesn’t make sense to them: a) A west interchange features more difficult terrain and a river crossing; b) Trinity/Red doesn’t own land in west Eagle, and c)Trinity/Red wants an interchange to benefit their project, which is the real reason one is being proposed there in the first place. These statements do not address the underlying reason for doing an interchange to begin with ” to alleviate traffic. And, regardless of who is paying for a new interchange, or how much it costs, it still makes sense to put it where it belongs, which is west of the current interchange.
Consultants from Denver have presented the housing plan, which contains a mix of housing comprised of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes, some located above the retail on Main Street and most (481) on the west end. Some would be deed restricted, some would be free market and available to a variety of people, not just employees of Eagle River Station. The one main caveat with the presentation is that it wasn’t (once again) based on a real model at all. For instance, we were the ones to bring up the fact that an average retail clerk makes $27,000 a year and would not be able to afford a home working one job. When the consultant was asked where the breakdowns were of what workers at what level would be living in what type of unit, the answer was “I can’t tell you.” Eagle River Station still needs 2,000 workers who just plain do not exist, nor will they ever exist given the onslaught of all the upvalley projects opening soon. Also, Trinity/Red admitted they have never done a residential component before, so they selected a partner ” also out of Kansas City ” a firm that has no experience doing deed restricted homes. One question that was left unanswered is: Since Trinity/Red intends to phase the residential over three to four years, where would the 2,000 employees (if they existed) live in the meantime since the commercial gets completed at year one? Everything in this presentation was based on assumption. We need real numbers.
Fred Butler’s May 11 letter to the editor was brilliant ” it said it all. The term “critical habitat” takes on different meanings for different hired agencies and consultants, but clearly that land remains critical to the magnificent animals who have chosen to use it since it is in the path of their winter migration. The purported expert who did the study was not on hand to answer the question of what time of day and what time of year the study was done. In fact, the report wasn’t even dated!
There are numerous important issues surrounding Eagle River Station as it makes its way through the process. The most critical issue is the financing ” who pays for what and what the tax burden is to the town and to the taxpayers. The Tuesday, May 20 meeting covers fiscal analysis. At the end of the day, we all need to carefully weigh our coveted small town values against proposed sales tax dollars (that won’t be seen for 25 years.) Thus far, everything presented to us by the developer’s paid consultants is based on totally unknown models. We all know that consultants are going to present their findings in accordance with the what the developer wants us to believe. The real truth is what we are seeking and deserve.
Jan Rosenthal Townsend is an Eagle business owner and a member of the group, Citizens for the Future of Eagle. E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.