Why Eaton looks like a good deal
Thank you and others for your different points of view on the Eagle River Preserve. I have realized that in this job, the importance of spending considerable time listening to attorneys, accountants, planners, editorialists and citizens despite the impossibility to have consensus with them all. My job as county commissioners is to immerse myself in the overall issue and a vision and find a solution. Elected officials are generalists and serving on a foundation of integrity and leadership with an eye on vision. The efforts of the Vail Valley Foundation to preserve Eaton Ranch have been tremendous and our decision tonight important enough that I feel compelled to correct inaccuracies that have been published to date. First, I have a keen understanding of the county budget – what we can afford and what we can not. I take my responsibility very seriously when it comes to spending public monies. We made it through post 9/11 economic uncertainty with responsible and effective fiscal spending. We have appropriated funds and are about to break ground for a child-care facility at Miller Ranch; we have appropriated funds for the airport every year; our road and bridge maintenance fund has healthy reserves. Monies for the fair ground pavilion are appropriated; the proforma and the purpose of the pavilion are still under discussion.From my perspective, Commissioner Peter Runyon and I ran on many platforms. Peter’s clearly was to not develop the Eaton parcel. He had his announcement party at the Mustang Grill in order to highlight the need not to develop the land behind the restaurant. My overall philosophy and material speaks of sustainable development. One that is achieved by realizing the balance of environmental, economic and social needs. When I look back over the outcome of the election, I believe our constituents were demanding that Peter and I focus our expertise on addressing their perceived loss of quality of life here in Eagle County. I can tell you why people volunteered for my campaign. As Stan Cope, my campaign treasurer, says: “It is because there is one thing everyone cares about in this county – the environment.”What is smart about the Eaton Ranch deal is the private-public partnership – 50 cents on the dollar buys the land at $80,000 an acre. Land in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. By 2025, CDOT projects the traffic along I-70 to triple. I have worked in real estate development since the late-’70s, and I can assure you this land will appraise at $12 million, or better. Harry Frampton, who is a spearheading Eaton Ranch’s preservation efforts, stated recently to the Board of Commissioners that his company just purchased the Avon parcel along the river – 17 acres for $529,000 an acre, which equals $9 million. This admission by Mr. Frampton puts a couple of things into perspective: the $12 million asking price for 72 acres of riverfront property in Edwards, and Mr. Frampton’s genuine motives to help government leaders improve quality of life.One other note that one learns as they spend the last few months studying for this deal: The Eagle Valley Land Trust negotiated two years ago for land in Wolcott. The owner wanted $14 million for 75 acres. The land trust felt the price was too high. And the EVLT has attempted many times to get the owner of Red Mountain Ranch in Eagle to sell, but he was not interested. In January of 2005, Eaton Ranch is the only deal on the table with 50-50 partnership. I had hoped there would be more, but the owner of potential properties in this county have to want to sell in order to make a deal. Please refer to http://www.eagleriverpreserve.com for more information, as the Vail Valley Foundation has outlined what will happen to the land if it’s preserved. Eagle County will own the 72 acres, and the EVLT will hold the conservation easement. If this land is preserved as open space or compatible passive, it will require minimal maintenance.When I think that we spent $1.5 million on a 3-acre pond at Miller Ranch, hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants over the past few years and many other projects that could be called into question, I’m walking into tonight’s meeting thinking that buying the Eaton land today for preservation for future generations to come is a good deal.Arn Menconi is the chairman of the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.
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