Wolcott may be Vail Valley’s next town
WOLCOTT – An Edwards developer plans to build 2,000 homes – as well as stores, restaurants, offices and parks – in Wolcott on what are now mostly pastures.
The price tag for the new community, which would be built over 20 years, would perhaps approach $1 billion, said Rick Hermes, the developer. He says he will submit the plan to the county today.
The county review process could take years.
The 1,100 acres – which is being sold by the Jouflases, a longtime local ranching family, to Hermes’ group – represents one of the last large parcels of undeveloped land on the valley floor.
Hermes envisions a community with mostly single-family homes priced at “attainable” levels, starting at $250,000. “Brownstone”-type homes would also be included. About 4,000 to 5,000 people would live in the development once it is fully built.
There would also be a pedestrian-friendly downtown area with restaurants, stores and offices. Hermes didn’t say exactly how much retail the complex would have, but said it would be less than what is in Edwards’ Riverwalk and that it would not have “big box” stores.
“We wanted to have something that complemented the rest of the valley,” Hermes said.
A school, a church, and fire, police and ambulance stations also would be built in Wolcott, according to plans. The project will be 60 percent open space, the developer says. Highway 6 would be realigned alongside Interstate 70, moving it away from the river.
Chris Jouflas, whose family has owned the land since the 1930s, said he thinks the plan is good because it takes much of Wolcott and envisions a community where locals can live, work and play.
“It’s not some place you go to,” Jouflas said. “It’s a place where you’re from.”
This project will do a lot to help the working people in the county with affordable homes as well as jobs, Jouflas said.
Before skiing came to the valley in the early ’60s, ranching was the main industry here. But the era of agriculture is clearly gone, Jouflas said. That reality was reinforced last month when longtime local rancher Randy Campbell, who in recent years had used the Jouflas land for his sheep, died, Jouflas said.
The proposal is being put forward at a time when Eagle County development has crawled to a near-stop after several years of tremendous activity.
“Now is the time when we can actually put a plan together that is representative of the times we are in and are coming out of,” Hermes said.
He added that this project would provide work for the local building industry, which has seen a steep drop-off in activity.
Hermes has lived in the valley since 1990, and now lives in the Wolcott area. His company has built some 400 homes in the valley, including many in the high-end communities Red Sky Ranch and Arrowhead.
The company that is developing Wolcott is called Community Concepts Colorado, which was formed specifically for this project. Hermes declined to identify his partners in the project.
Don Cohen, executive director of the Economic Council of Eagle County, a group that promotes the long-term economic health of the county, said there will likely be contention about how close and how dense development beside the Eagle River will be.
“That’s going to be a point of healthy debate,” he said.
There’s not enough demand for homes in the valley now to absorb some 100 new homes a year, as is planned with this development, but growth will slowly return to the valley, Cohen said. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s five years or more before the first stage of the project is completed.
Under the approval process, the “planned unit development sketch plan” will go before the county’s planning commission, and then the county commissioners. If approved, a “planned unit development preliminary plan” would then need approval by the commissioners. Each of those steps could take six months or more, said Bob Narracci, planning manager for Eagle County.
Public input will be part of the process, Narracci said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the plan, go to http://www.wolcottcolorado.com