Right for Habitat and for county
The Vail Daily has published several commentaries by Chris Neuswanger in which he argues that a rezoning of a property in Edwards — Tract K — and the subsequent donation of that property to Habitat for Humanity as a site for 16 future homes is the “wrong land for Habitat.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The property in question is a vacant lot just west of the Edwards fire station. It is currently zoned for commercial development. The site is owned by Remonov and Company Inc. Remonov and Company has developed Edwards Corner, Edwards Commercial Park and Edwards Village Center in Edwards.
Remonov is requesting Eagle County approve changes to the zoning on this parcel from commercial general to high density multifamily residential as shown in the Eagle County future land use map and as is similar to condo projects in lower Homestead. Once rezoned, this property will be donated to Habitat to allow for the construction of 16 Habitat homes for deserving Eagle County families and will be similar in value, density and quality as nearby Homestead high density projects. This is a LEEDS certified project.
First, let us understand that Neuswanger’s comments are a far cry from accurate. Let’s correct some of his errors and misstatements: Neuswanger claims the tract is an open space parcel. The open space designation was deleted by the Eagle County Planning Commission and the Eagle County commissioners in 1996 — 17 years ago — and has not been challenged since.
Tract K currently has plat notes stating permitted uses include pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular access, drainage structures, landscaping, utilities, trails and recreational facilities. This land could potentially be a public or private gymnasium, skateboard park, basketball court, indoor swimming pool, maybe a bicycle dirt track, a mini soccer field, utility or phone switching station, all public or private.
Tract K could be a day parking lot for Edwards commercial properties or a commuter parking lot for the adjacent ECO bus stop. How about a solar farm?
In an effort to address Neuswanger’s concerns about drainage, Remonov undertook a drainage study by Intermountain Engineering, a reputable and experienced local engineering company. Their results for the site concluded that “there was no reason this site couldn’t be used for (Habitat).”
In contradiction to Neuswanger’s claims, the proposed use for the site — residential housing — fits perfectly in the use envisioned by multiple county and local planning agencies. In fact, the Eagle County master plan, Eagle County land use regulations, the Edwards Area Community Plan, the affordable housing guidelines, the Edwards design guidelines and the access control plan all approve designated infill development is better suited for core areas to be developed vs. rural areas.
Eagle County Community Development stated the application “meets minimum, meets majority of minimum, or exceeds minimum standards” in all categories. The county’s future land use map clearly shows Tract K to be rezoned multi-family.
Finally, the personal attack on the integrity and ethics of Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney is both wrong and inaccurate. A commissioner makes many decisions, and not everyone agrees with every decision. That’s life in politics. Yet in his many years of service, Jon Stavney has always exhibited the highest level of integrity. His track record of consistently being re-elected and now being hired as the town manager of the town of Eagle speaks to this record.
Neuswanger seems obsessed not about homes for deserving families but claims that Remonov will benefit by receiving $10 million to $18 million. While this project for Habitat for Humanity undertaken by Remonov has taken 18 months, significant time and significant financial costs to obtain approvals through the county process, this is past absurd. If this really were the case, everyone in the county would donate land to Habitat.
These and many other facts are just not correct or close to correct.
As with every project that crosses the county planning process, there are issues to resolve.
After many meetings with professionals, consultants and engineers, there are no significant issues that cannot be resolved.
Now let’s consider some positive reasons this rezoning is good for Habitat and for our community.
At the recent Eagle County Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Greg Moffet projected that in 18 months Eagle County will again be in a crisis situation with regards to affordable housing.
Affordable housing has been an issue that has been difficult for the towns and county to address. This proposal addresses that concern.
What is the current use of the property? One third of the land is paving, one third is a dirt-fill berm and a portion has a ditch.
The property backs up to the Edwards Post Office, the Edwards Metro District and the Edwards fire station.
Hardly a dream site for “open space.”
Yet for Habitat, it would be a true bonanza.
Habitat relies on the generosity of supportive citizens and companies to provide land or funds for land. Obtaining affordable home sites is Habitat’s greatest challenge.
To be able to acquire 16 sites in the mid-valley at no cost would be a significant contribution to the Habitat mission. It would allow for the construction of affordable homes for 16 families within walking distance of groceries, schools, transportation and free parks. That would change their lives. They would be thrilled to own a home here.
Habitat families are a vital part of our community.
While Habitat families may not be wealthy financially, their wealth is shown by their community spirit, their work ethic and their family priorities.
Over 75 percent of Habitat family children make the honor roll after the move into their new home.
Habitat homes locally and nationally have proven to be good neighbors. National studies indicate no negative impact on property values.
In summary, the rezoning and subsequent donation to Habitat of this Edwards vacant lot will support Habitat’s mission and allow for the construction of 16 affordable homes for deserving, hard-working families in our community.
I would hope that the local community would recognize the value of this project to the community and join with the over 700 Habitat volunteers to support this effort.
With this proposed project, Habitat for Humanity and Remonov and Co. have chosen a positive direction for our community, for Edwards and for Eagle County.
This is about community and public benefit. Now is a great time to support those that support you.
I remember an old quote from JFK: “Ask not what Eagle County can do for you, but what you can do for those in Eagle County!” Or something like that!
Rick Mueller is the president of Remonov and Co. Inc.