What’s next for Haymeadow?
Eagle, facing major housing crunch, not all on board with proposed land swap to fast-track multi-family housing
EAGLE — Eagle’s town officials approved the Haymeadow planned unit development nearly seven years ago. It set the stage for continued growth up Brush Creek, authorizing up to 837 new housing units throughout five neighborhoods on the 660-acre property.
But while some infrastructure is now in place, the first house is yet to be built.
For months, Haymeadow’s development team has been proposing two amendments to its PUD agreement with the town. The most controversial involves a 14-acre site adjacent to the Soleil neighborhood and Mountain Recreation’s pool and ice rink facility.
Under the current agreement, that site is slated to be used for a school at some point in the future as Haymeadow is built. But the development team is proposing to use the site to build up to 112 units of multi-family housing, taking advantage of infrastructure already in place. In exchange, it is offering the school district an 18-acre site located more centrally in the Haymeadow development, as well as five affordable housing units for teachers.
With rising building costs, the desire is to allow more housing density on the front end for better economies of scale, making it possible to raise money for future site infrastructure needs while also providing housing at a cost that local residents can afford, according to the Haymeadow development team.
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“The goal is to provide more of the housing type that is most in need right now, near a $400,000 price point,” Haymeadow developer Brandon Cohen, of Abrika Properties, said of the proposed school site swap. “This will help Haymeadow generate the cash flow needed to fund the next phase of infrastructure, which is much more substantial than the first phase, and provide critical attainable housing for locals.”
Cohen and his development team made their pitch to Eagle’s planning and zoning commission on Tuesday, hoping to get its support for the proposed school site swap — at one point noting the cheapest house currently for sale in Eagle is priced at $1.8 million. The team did not get the support it hoped for.
At the planning commission meeting, its second on the subject, local residents and neighbors took turns voicing their support for or opposition to the proposal.
Some, like Sam Blethen, who lives in EagleVail, said they support the proposed school site swap, in part because they are eagerly awaiting construction of attainable housing for their own chance to move to Eagle.
Others, seemingly in greater numbers, argued there are adverse effects associated with the school site swap that cannot be mitigated and should not be ignored. They questioned the proposed swap’s impact on their own neighboring property’s views or values; the traffic impacts on an already unsafe narrow and winding Brush Creek Road; and the desirability of consolidating so much multi-family housing in one area, when it would otherwise be spread throughout more of the Haymeadow property.
Another recurring point of contention: Moving the future school site away from the neighboring Mountain Recreation site and breaking up the town’s long-term vision of having a shared campus for them.
“We need affordable housing in our valley, but it cannot come at the expense of the youth who already live here, go to school here, and play here,” said Amy May, a resident of Brush Creek Road. “It is understandable that outside developers want to invest in our community right now, and I hope they can appreciate how invested and involved we are as residents and stakeholders who want to support the vision the town of Eagle has created.”
Members of Eagle’s advisory planning commission wrestled with some of those same questions, particularly the issue of disconnecting the school site from the Mountain Recreation site, and ultimately voted to recommend that the Eagle Town Council not approve the proposed PUD amendment for the school site swap.
The decision went against the recommendation of town planning staff.
“Lots of thought and analysis went into that original plan, it had a lot of input and vetting,” Jesse Gregg, a member of the planning commission, said of the proposed school site swap and the existing PUD agreement. “I don’t see how we can just throw that out the window in favor of building some condos on the site, rather than keeping it as a public amenity for the school, and the synergies that go along with Mountain Rec and the pool and ice rink and school all in one central campus.“
A second PUD amendment, which would allow Haymeadow to renovate a cabin on the property for a special events and wedding venue, requiring a swap of open space land with the town, was supported unanimously by the planning commission members.
Mike McCormack, vice president of the Mountain Recreation board of directors, said his organization is finding it difficult to oppose the school site swap. But the existing layout, with its vision for a shared campus with the schools and rec district, comes with a lot of benefits, and some negatives.
“One is that it makes the Haymeadow development a little more cumbersome for the developer. We get that, but we also feel compelled to stick to the original plan,” McCormack said. “We understand the need for affordable housing, and our decision comes with a little bit of regret. The Haymeadow team has been very transparent and up front, great to deal with. We just find ourselves on the opposite side of this one issue.”
For his part, Cohen said he plans to take the proposed school site swap forward to the Eagle Town Council later this April, even without the support of the planning commission. “We firmly believe this opportunity presents a win/win situation and believe the town has an urgent need for affordable housing that this swap will address,” he said.
For now, seven years later, with a town housing shortage and many of the needed town approvals already in place to start building hundreds of homes as part of the first phase of the Haymeadow development, and the building season at hand, the Haymeadow site will continue to go without seeing the construction of its first home, single-family or multi-family.
“We don’t currently have any plans to begin construction without the swap,” Cohen said.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.