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The rest of the story

While I really do like Randy Wyrick as a person and enjoyed his writing over the years, I feel compelled to offer up another side of the story to the Vail Daily article May 2 in regards to the opposition of many in the Homestead Community to the Remenov Co. proposal involving Habitat for Humanity.

While the article did offer information about the proposal and was truthful, it lacked in addressing Homestead’s very legitimate concerns, not only for their own interests but for the safety and livability of the 16 Habitat families who might select this address simply because they have no other options for home ownership.

First, the planning and zoning board clearly struggled with this decision during the three hours it was debated. Every member expressed that they wished they could make this work , but they saw the problems and agreed the issues were valid on a wide variety of fronts. Most had little to do with the relatively minor opposition from Homestead community members in regards to having a Habitat community in their midst — that is not what this is about.

In the end they deemed this was not an appropriate spot for a Habitat for Humanity community and recommended that the Board of County Commissioners deny the application.

However, it is possible the commissioners may override the decision and approve this request.

A March 2013 flood study done by Inter-Mountain Engineering determined that Tract K is a considerable flash flood risk. Not only would the Habitat community be inundated, but so would the firehouse complex and water would be lapping at the doors of several surrounding homes.

This could result from as little as 2.5 inches of rain in six hours.

There is approximately a 10,000-acre basin above Homestead that drains for the most part into the proposed community site.

Inter-Mountain specifies that some storm water management system would have to be built, but did not say what.

In addition, it would be necessary to infill the lot to raise the finished floor areas above the 100-year flood plain.

The play areas and parking lots would be in the plain, though.

This will require a massive and costly flood mitigation effort, at the expense of future Habitat owners and the costs will go on forever.

I tried to discuss what would be required, but Rick Mueller of Remenov Co., instructed Inter-Mountain Engineering not to answer any questions.

On another note, it is true that Eagle County has purchased land near Homestead as open space and some might say we have it all and want more, but the article ignored the good faith effort that Homestead made by putting 138 acres of its private open space in public access. We took, but we gave as well to all in that regard.

No mention is made of the considerable time spent on the concerns of safety of the Habitat for Humanity children from the dangers of a busy firehouse driveway serving as the entrance to the community or the active irrigation ditch bordering the west, only a few feet from the homes. What kid is not fascinated by fire trucks and open water courses?

The article also failed to mention that more than a dozen Homestead owners spoke against this proposal, many for different reasons, and that it was opposed by the Edwards Metro district, Edwards Community Authority, Eagle River Fire Protection District, the Ambulance District and the Stags Leap Homeowners Association. Also, one group gathered a petition with more than 100 Homestead owner signatures on it.

However, the most egregious omission from the article is just how profitable it can be to donate to a group like Habitat.

While Mueller would give Habitat the land, Eagle County has a system that developers can earn affordable housing credits by doing projects like this.

They can sell those credits to other developers who need to build affordable housing as a component of their new projects (like Wolcott).

Putting a dollar value on this is difficult, but compared to Vail, which allows payment in lieu of building housing, the formula would put the value of these credits as high as $10 million.

This number came from the planning commission, and admittedly Vail prices do not equal Wolcott. On the low side, these credits might be worth only a few million.

This money first goes to the Remenov Co. and Mueller, not to Habitat.

Mueller stated in the article that he would generously donate enough housing credits to Habitat to sell to build one more house! So Habitat would get a few hundred thousand, and Mueller would could end up with millions.

Wow, if this is how charitable giving works, no wonder rich people are happier than the rest of us. Many board members questioned the fairness of getting millions for a 1.3-acre piece of land that is worthless without the requested changes.

The fact that this land has been deed restricted for over 30 years to little more than open space and taxed as such escaped mention in Wyrick’s article.

The request now goes to the Eagle County commissioners in a few weeks, and our next concern is that Commissioner Jon Stavney will refuse to recuse himself from voting on this issue.

Stavney served on the Habitat board from 2009 until February 2013, when he stepped down so he could vote with no perceived conflict of interest (in his mind anyway). Many Homestead residents are upset that he is refusing to recuse himself and comply with what we see as Colorado statutes governing such matters.

The Vail Daily should offer more balanced and fair reporting on this subject.

While Habitat is a good organization, this is not the right land for it, for many reasons.

Chris Neuswanger


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