‘West End’ still stuck on traffic, housing
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” County Commissioner Peter Runyon put three equal stacks of coins on the table to represent homes in the county after developers presented their plans for the ‘West End’ project Tuesday.
One stack represented second homes, the second represented locally owned homes, and the third represented approved, but not-yet-built homes. The stacks appear equal, he said, but of the third stack, only a fraction represent affordable, locally-owned housing. The majority are second homes.
He rearranged the stacks to show the stack of second homes towering over the affordable, local ones. That, he said, is why he is hesitant to give developers the green light on the project, which would be a mix of homes, businesses and offices in the core of Edwards, including 72 affordable homes.
“This project, although it has the appearance (of providing affordable housing), doesn’t mitigate the problem in the county,” he said.
Although the other commissioners said they were pleased with the affordable housing component, Runyon said the project would create more jobs than affordable homes. The affordable homes would provide housing for about 144 workers, he said, but the development alone would create 180 jobs.
Although the project, which aims to create a “live where you work” environment, is attractive, he said, there are far too many second homes in the area and not enough affordable homes for local workers.
“I’m more concerned with maintaining a balance between second-homeowners and workers. We’re headed for a catastrophic imbalance,” Runyon said.
However, the other commissioners said they liked the project though they are still concerned with traffic. After almost six hours of discussion, the board decided not to vote on the project. They will continue discussing it on Sept. 11.
Commissioner Arn Menconi said he was impressed with the quality of the design and the willingness of developers to create affordable housing. “None of this has ever happened before,” he said of the number of affordable homes proposed by the project.
Overall, the project is a “positive and courageous step forward” in affordable urban development, said Commissioner Sara Fisher.
She said she thought there could still be traffic problems.
The project would include three main buildings, pedestrian walkways and plazas and mostly underground parking, said representatives from the Midtown Group development company.
“Large-scale public gathering areas are lacking in Edwards,” said Midtown representative Brian Bair. “We think ‘West End’ will be the place people will go.”
The project gave several solutions to slowing traffic in the area, including pedestrian crosswalks and a roundabout, but Fisher was not convinced.
“This would exacerbate what seems to be a more and more congested area,” she said.
The project’s developers said they would finance any landscaping and any necessary environmental measures in order to blend in with the adjacent Eagle River Preserve site.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.