Novick: Committed to attainable housing at Edwards RiverPark
As the development team sat down to draft this column, we were in the midst of reading dozens of local news reports outlining the employee shortage, attainable housing and early child care facility crises. We continue to believe that our proposed Edwards RiverPark development will make great strides with these issues.
In March of this year, the Eagle County Commissioners agreed to table our planned unit development application to allow additional time to incorporate the commissioners’ analysis. Although the plan under consideration had been approved by the county’s planning commission and recommended for approval by staff, both with conditions, the commissioners provided valuable input for additional project improvements, in addition to extensive community input, following eight public hearings. It was clear that the commissioners preferred the general character of the sketch plan for the site that was unanimously approved in January 2018.
Based on this, we have implemented changes that also address the comments we heard and these changes create a PUD that continues to comply with Eagle County land use regulations and the Edwards Area Community Plan.
Before outlining the updates we have made, I wanted to step back and provide some historical context. When I was a full-time resident of Edwards, I was very much engaged in the Edwards Community Area Plan process and conversations with county staff for two years prior to acquiring the abandoned gravel pit that is the project site.
Prior to acquiring the site in 2018, I attended several planning commission meetings regarding the Edwards Area Community Plan, and was involved in extensive planning discussions with county staff. In 2017, I filed the sketch plan application for the current development that included a mixed-use, 596 residential unit project with an 85-foot building height for the majority of the site, and this plan was recommended for approval by the planning commission, and unanimously approved by the county commissioners. Although the plan was discussed extensively in the community and was the subject of articles in the Vail Daily, no members of the community appeared in opposition to this plan.
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As a result of the efforts and vision of Don MacKenzie, who came into the project in 2018, the PUD evolved to include all of the original components, but added an amphitheater, conference center, an expanded commercial component and a condo hotel. The development team, led by Don, spent a year and a half updating its plans to reflect input received from multiple agencies, county staff and considerable outreach from area residents. Unexpectedly, on July 5, 2020, Don passed away. Longtime Vail Valley resident Rocky Cortina had joined the team, and after Don’s untimely death, continued to try to implement Don’s vision.
Since March of 2021, we have refocused our plan that will still be based on sustainable planning principles through the reclamation of a very challenging industrial site. The changes include:
- Eliminating the condo hotel and conference space
- Eliminating the amphitheater
- Significantly reducing building heights with an eye toward four stories
- Reducing the residential unit count by 25 percent, or from the original 594 units to 440 units total, with no commensurate reduction in our commitment to attainable housing yielding a higher overall percentage of the density: 100 workforce rental units and at least 45 units available for buy-down deed restriction
- Adding new park space, while retaining our commitment to putting 31 acres of open space into a conservation easement with winter closure for wildlife
- Eliminating over 50% of the retail and commercial space.
As a result of the proposed changes, the amount of traffic generated by the PUD has been reduced so that the total traffic will be within the U.S. Highway 6 capacity for the 20-year horizon.
Further, we are:
- Retaining our commitment to provide 2,500 square feet of early child care facilities for a lease rate of $1 per year as part of the commercial uses
- Retaining our commitment to build a nearly $6 million roundabout at the base of Lake Creek Road, and to create a wildlife enhancement fee by way of a real estate transfer assessment of 0.2% on all sales in perpetuity
- Maintaining the landscape improvements within the Eagle River Preserve property to enhance the human and wildlife buffer to the project
We appreciate all of the input and engagement, and look forward to presenting these modifications on Sept. 7.
Keith Novick is a member of the Edwards RiverPark ownership team.