Neuswanger: Latest RiverPark iteration doesn’t fit Edwards
As a member of the citizens steering committee who collectively wrote the 2017 Edwards Area Community Plan, I would like to respond to Keith Novick’s Aug. 10 column in the Vail Daily in which he asserts that the revised proposal for Edwards RiverPark is a return to the ideals of the proposed sketch plan approved by the county commissioners 4½ years ago and that it is compliant with the Edwards Area Community Plan.
The current plan for Edwards RiverPark calls for 440 total dwelling units, and 11,000 square feet of commercial space and will put about 2,800 more cars per day on U.S. Highway 6.
First, in the context of land-use planning, the sketch plan lets the applicant proceed to more in-depth planning steps. No development rights are conveyed at the sketch plan level.
Secondly, in the view of the steering committee, the plan presented 4½ years ago was not compliant with the Edwards Area Community Plan, nor is the current proposal.
Novick incorrectly asserts that the 2017 sketch plan was the subject of multiple articles in the Vail Daily at the time, and nobody objected. A thorough search of the Daily archives shows one news item written days after the sketch plan was approved. There were no articles beforehand that this was up for discussion.
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Further, even had there been, there was little need at the time for undue attention by citizens because the land-use process would require many public meetings to discuss further details.
After closely reviewing the 2017 plan and a video of Novick’s comments to the county commissioners at the time, it is glaringly apparent that Novick is being disingenuous in many claims regarding this project both then and now.
At the meeting in 2017, Novick stated that “we have agreed with housing (department) that about 60% the units would be rentals” (which would leave 40% of the units as for sale). He emphasized repeatedly this would be a local’s community.
The current proposal calls for 20% (90) of the units as workforce rentals (Novick claimed in his column there would be 100 rentals, which is false) and 80% for sale. Forty-five of the for-sale units could be deed-restricted by Eagle County if they first buy them at a cost likely to be millions of dollars. The county would then deed-restrict the units and resell them for a subsidized price.
Ninety of the unrestricted for-sale units could be short-term rented which would result in thousands of short-term guests (over the years) in this so-called local’s community.
Novick also stated in 2017: ”the last thing we want to do is create Avon at this location, that’s not the plan.“ Yet the building heights and density now proposed are very close to the West Avon core.
The 2017 sketch plan called for 85-foot tall buildings next to Highway 6 and called for the rest of the buildings to be 2-3 stories max. The current proposal calls for three 85-foot tall buildings by Highway 6 and a 68-foot building and 55-foot building (4-5 stories) elsewhere.
Contradicting himself again, he states on the 2017 recording that “my vision for this property is more the mass and density of Riverwalk.” By comparison, Riverwalk contains about 13.5 buildable acres and has combined commercial and residential density of about 28,000 square feet per acre. The proposed square footage under the new proposal by Novick has not been stated exactly, but the 2019 proposal was for 73,000 square feet per buildable acre. While the development size had been reduced somewhat, it will not meet his stated “vision.”
Novick claims in his column that the construction of a new roundabout at Lake Creek Road (which would not be necessary except for his development) will not be a taxpayer burden. But in the proposals, the roundabout will be paid for by the taxpayers of RiverPark via a special district, not the developer.
The commissioners need to clearly recognize that the latest iteration of RiverPark does not comply with the Edwards Area Community plan in terms of being an addition to the local community or an acceptable density.
This issue will be heard by Eagle County on Sept. 7 at the afternoon meeting. It is unannounced at the time I write this if public comment will be allowed or not, which is troubling. Residents should follow the Eagle County Planning office web page to see updates.
There is also a website put up by concerned community members and a petition to ask for denial of RiverPark.
Chris Neuswanger is a longtime valley local who helped write the 2017 Edwards Area Community Plan.