What to do with Eagle-Vail elementary school land? | VailDaily.com

What to do with Eagle-Vail elementary school land?

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Meadow Mountain DT 9-15-10

EAGLE-VAIL – Meadow Mountain Elementary’s days are numbered.

With students set to move into the old Battle Mountain High School building next fall, Meadow Mountain Elementary will be razed this summer.

Will something else rise up in its place?

That’s up to the Eagle County school board.

After the demolition, about 12 acres could be available for sale, trade or some other use, said Ray Scott, the district’s construction director.

School Board Member Kate Cocchiarella said she wants to hear feedback from the Eagle-Vail community on what to do with the land.

“I would like to see some affordable housing,” she said. “Not a big project, but housing for young professionals, teachers, nurses, firemen.”

Housing on the property appeals to Eagle-Vail resident Louise Funk as well. She’s president of Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District.

“One of the things I feel we have needed, especially here in Eagle-Vail, is what I would call a ‘starter home.'” she said. “Affordable housing for young families wanting to move into the area.”

Those homes would fit in well next to the former Battle Mountain High School, she said. The school district is remodeling the building into a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school.

“We have an aging neighborhood with people like me whose children are almost grown up,” Funk said. “I bought in 25 years ago and I’m committed to this neighborhood but we need young blood coming in, especially now that we have this new K-8 in here.”

Over the years, Eagle-Vail officials have tossed out various ideas for the elementary school land, added Bob Finlay, another metro board member.

“We have talked about whether there could be some housing there, whether there could be a community center there,” he said. “A lot of it was just dreaming.”

“I know a lot of people on Whiskey Hill would not like to see a bunch of housing there, simply because right now, as a school, it’s a minimum impact for the people who live up there.”

Next fall, Scott plans to ask the school board whether he can put put an ad in the newspaper, asking the community for proposals for the land.

Altogether, Meadow Mountain Elementary stands on 16.5 acres, Scott said. A bus barn and parking take up some of the property, he said.

As for the remaining 12 or so acres, the land is unfettered by the restrictions on the land next door where the old Battle Mountain High School site. The Colorado State Land Board owns almost all of the 40 acres where the high school stands, Scott said. The school district would lose the rights to that land if it failed to use the property for education, Scott said.

Less complicated, the school district owns the Meadow Mountain Elementary property, Scott said. That means the district could sell the land to someone who wants to use it for something other than education, he said.

What’s it worth?

Scott said he plans to get the Meadow Mountain land appraised next fall. In the absence of an appraisal, it’s hard to say how much the property is worth.

The property’s value would hinge on its zoning, argues Finlay, who works as a real estate broker with Prudential Colorado Properties in Lionshead.

Currently, the property stands in unincorporated Eagle County and is zoned “resource,” county planning manager Bob Narracci said. That zoning allows agricultural uses and one home per 35 acres, he said.

That zoning hardly adds value to the land, Finlay said.

“It only has value when you can change that zoning and put on 10 [housing] units per acre or something like that,” he said.

If the property’s zoning allowed affordable housing, Finlay said the land could fetch about $30,000 per housing unit. If the zoning allowed high density residential development, the land price could jump to about $200,000 per unit, he said.

Narracci said a developer could apply for customized zoning on the land.

Even with a zoning change, though, the property might not be worth much while the recession drags on.

Finlay said the current market for development property is “absolutely horrible.”

“I don’t know that, if you have a development piece of property, you could give it away in today’s market,” he said.

By next year, he doubts banks will be ready to lend money for a housing development.

It could be three to five years at least before the banks start lending again, Finlay said.

“A developer might want to take it on tomorrow but they’re not going to be able to get the money to develop it,” he said.

Given the economy, school board members are in no rush to make a decisions about the land.

“I think that’s why we’re not in any kind of a hurry,” School Board member Jeanne McQueeney said. “Other people aren’t in a hurry because they’re waiting for the economy to turn around.”

In the meantime, school board members say they’re open to possibilities.

“I think we’re still very open to hearing what people’s ideas are and what they’d like to see happen there,” McQueeney said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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