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Letters to the editor

Jan Rosenthal Townsend

For those of you who don’t know what is going on in the lower Eagle Valley…in Eagle, just east of Chambers Avenue off of I-70 and Highway 6, there is a proposed mixed-use big box-residential project, called Red Mountain Ranch (RMR), which would be comprised of 450,000 square feet of commercial-retail on 442 acres. Also proposed are 350 multi-family housing units on the same land, along with a full diamond interchange in the middle of the property. The interchange (if approved) would take many, many years to get built and would require in the neighborhood of $20,000,000-plus (yes, that’s $20 million, folks!) of funding, much of which would have to come out of taxpayers pockets – essentially our pockets. A local developer, Merv Lapin, who is representing a group of investors, won’t reveal who this anchor may be. There is speculation that the anchor, the main big box store, may be a Costco, Sam’s or similar national corporate entity. There is also the great likelihood that many smaller “ancillary” regional or national retailers will follow, all of whom would be a threat to existing businesses up and down the valley floor, not just Eagle. We would not know who these national retailers are until they come. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that once built, this project will be successful or remain successful. Also, where are the hundreds of low-wage employees needed for these stores going to come from? And where will they live? There is good development and there is bad development. I know this from personal experience in that my immediate family has been in real estate for 40-plus years. RMR is simply bad development. The irony is that Merv Lapin (although he has the right to develop his land) put Beasley’s grocery store in Eagle out of business with the building of City Market years ago and will now potentially put City Market out of business with a Costco or similar store. Is this hypocrisy or what? I ask you all, is this someone that really has the best interests of our community in mind? I think not. Furthermore, out of desperation, Mr. Lapin, who doesn’t live in Eagle, has recently engaged the help of a friend, Bill Clinkenbeard, to walk the streets enlisting businesses to jump on the big box bandwagon without giving them all the cold, hard facts. To the developer’s advantage, we will not hear about the numerous businesses that have spoken out AGAINST this project. I have heard from them, however. Incidentally, Mr. Clinkenbeard developed Cordillera and now spends only part of the year here, and it isn’t in Eagle. RMR is where horses, cattle and elk now roam and is one of the last, great open space land parcels in the Eagle Valley. It has a gorgeous view corridor to Red Mountain and the Eagle River. There has to be a better use for this land than a regional shopping center. There are numerous negative implications to this project as proposed, including horrendous traffic issues, wildlife-riparian impacts, water problems (including a drain on the Eagle River), huge costs in infrastructure to taxpayers vs. possible net sales tax revenues (which would only be realized in the far future), and the demise of locally owned, small businesses. The most important issue is that RMR will cause the loss of our small-town character and loss of our quality of life – the very reason why most of us moved here (or visit here) in the first place! Eagle and the Eagle Valley are different from the rest of America. Let’s dare to stay different! There are a variety of recent national studies and articles stating that towns all over America (in particular in the West) are trying to create or recreate a real town. And, big boxes are dying out. WE HAVE A REAL TOWN IN EAGLE AND IT JUST TURNED 100 YEARS OLD! We should capitalize on that! Another very important note is that Eagle’s Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously against this project last fall. There are also numerous case studies all over the U.S. (to mention just a couple – one by RKG Associates in 2001, and another by Civic Economics, December 2002) )that prove “that although various towns (Concord, N.H., and Austin, Texas, are case in points) have added millions of square feet of retail-commercial, overall tax revenues actually declined and property taxes have gone up. Residential property values also declined due to increased traffic, pollution and noise.” A recent local economic study (done by EPS Systems of Denver and paid for by the RMR developer) had a lot of data, all of which is speculative. The one thing that was a certainty (and which everyone agreed on) is that Eagle’s downtown “must thrive to survive.” Downtown Eagle is currently in the midst of a $5 million-plus renovation (and I happen to be on that advisory committee).After waiting 20-plus years for this to happen and before we even implement this great plan and see businesses invest, reinvest and thrive, RMR might be approved and become downtown’s competitor! We must fill up the thousands of square feet of vacant retail all over Eagle, Gypsum (and the entire valley, for that matter) before moving on to other areas of town, especially those not yet annexed such as RMR. In addition, we already have regional shopping centers that are only in their infancy – Avon and Glenwood-only 25 minutes down the road. We, the opponents of RMR, don’t need it, nor do we want it in Eagle or Eagle County! Proponents see this as “convenience of shopping” and are nipping at the carrot of projected sales tax revenues. Did we move here for regional shopping opportunities or quality of life? How do you put a price on quality of life? In my opinion, quality of life is priceless! Please, if you care about this valley, your life, your business and future generations, speak out now. Write the Eagle Town Board at PO Box 609, Eagle, CO 81631 and come voice your opinion at future RMR town hall meetings being held March 22, April 12 and April 26. For more information, e-mail noboxineagle@aol.com. Jan Rosenthal TownsendEagleLibrary is greatRecently, there appeared in the Vail Daily two Tipsline calls concerning the town of Vail Library. These anonymous callers found nothing good to say about the library. They accused the librarians of being inefficient, discourteous, catering only to the wealthy and imposing what the callers thought were unfair rules upon visitors to that facility.Were they speaking of the same library that we have known, used and relied upon for many, many years? The town of Vail Library has been for us the best cultural advantage that living in Vail has to offer. We have found nothing but cheerful, helpful personnel, whether in finding a book on an obscure topic, researching the Internet for useful articles, lending a sensitive and sympathetic ear when things go wrong and in general, being the great efficient and friendly librarians that they are. Perhaps there are two sides to the complaints that these people voiced. We suspect they may have had a bad day, walked in with a less than friendly attitude, or expected services that no library is capable of furnishing. Whatever the reason, we just wanted everyone to know that our library is a great public resource and that we appreciate the years of books, tapes and DVDs to which we have had access thanks to the staff there.Margaret and Herman RichmanVail, Colorado


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