Voters to decide Eagle River Station’s fate
May 21, 2012
EAGLE, Colorado – For the second time in two years, Eagle voters are being asked to approve or deny a large commercial and residential project in town. Will this time be different?
In 2010, nearly two-thirds of the town’s registered voters turned out to vote on the Eagle River Station proposal. The plan was denied by 156 votes out of more than 2,200 cast.
Trinity RED Development, the company that proposed Eagle River Station, revamped its proposal – changes included more retail space and taking out for-sale housing – and again went through the town’s approval process.
After the Eagle Town Board voted 6-1 to approve the plan, the board immediately put the question up for a vote. In 2010, opponents launched a petition drive to overturn the board’s decision.
This year, turnout is expected to be high again. At the end of the day May 18, more than 1,000 early votes had already been turned in.
Jeff McMahon, one of the partners in Trinity RED Development, said he believes there are differences in the 2010 debate and the one this year. In particular, he believes pro-development residents are speaking with a louder voice this year, something he called “very humbling.”
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“There have been grass-roots efforts by supporters who are not connected with us,” McMahon said. “We didn’t have that the first time.”
Just a drive along any of Eagle’s main thoroughfares shows a host of signs, both pro and con, but the pro-development signs seem to be more numerous this year.
Opponents have seen the trend, too.
Brandi Resa, a longtime project opponent and new member of the Eagle Town Board, said other opponents seemed to get a later start this time around.
But, McMahon said, it’s hard to tell how the pro-development push will translate to votes.
Both sides are focused on winning this round of the debate. If the proposal is defeated again, Eagle resident and business owner Paul Kulas said hopes Trinity RED will talk to residents about other options for the property.
Kulas, who believes brick-and-mortar stores will continue to decline in coming years, said he’d hope Trinity RED would listen to proposals for anything from solar farms to event centers to high-tech or medical businesses.
“We’ll just have to analyze it,” if the proposal fails, McMahon said.
If voters do approve the project, McMahon said it will still be years before any kind of construction begins. The first step in the plan is building a new Interstate 70 interchange. Planning that interchange will take roughly a year, and construction would take anywhere from 30 months to three years. And, McMahon added, Trinity RED won’t seek commitments from retailers until it has the right to build on its property.
Given that timeline, Resa said she hopes that Eagle’s residents and leaders continue to talk about economic development.
“Some of those ideas still need to happen,” she said.
While Kulas believes Eagle River Station isn’t right for Eagle, if it passes, he said he’ll support it.
“I’d never root for another entrepreneur to fail,” he said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.