El Jebel project rejected for size | AspenTimes.com

El Jebel project rejected for size

EL JEBEL ” Eagle County officials sent a midvalley developer back to the drawing board yesterday after they found his 130,000-square-foot residential and commercial project too big for El Jebel.

The Eagle County commissioners didn’t take a formal vote, but all three of them said the Crown Mountain Plaza building ” proposed at the former site of the El Jebel Amoco station and car wash ” wouldn’t work.

“It’s too big, just to simplify it,” said commission chairman Peter Runyon. “It’s a radical departure from the surrounding neighborhood.”

Neighbors who spoke at the public hearing in El Jebel were divided by the proposal. Some said it was just what the area needed while others said it is the type of development that is destroying the quality of life in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Crown Mountain Plaza was proposed by Dan Coleman of Coleman Brothers Construction. The firm bought the gas station site about two years ago, then immediately ripped out the gas pumps, car wash bays and tore down apartments on the site.

The proposed project features nearly 30,000 square feet of retail and office space on the first floor; office space and eight affordable housing units on the second floor; 11 free-market units and eight affordable housing units on the third floor; and 12 free-market units on the fourth floor. The building, as proposed, would be about 55 feet tall, but architectural elements would break up the mass, according to the development team.

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Tom O’Keefe, who lives on East Valley Road a short distance from the site, said he and most of his neighbors oppose the proposal.

“When is enough enough?” O’Keefe asked. “This is outrageous.”

The quality of life in the valley is going downhill, in part because of gridlock on the roads, O’Keefe said. And more development like Crown Mountain Plaza will only add to the problem, he said.

But Blue Lake resident Jennifer Kirk-Bauer responded that Crown Mountain Plaza will improve the El Jebel area. She and other speakers complained about the lack of stores, restaurants and amenities in the El Jebel area and complained about the quality of some of the existing buildings.

“We need some class here. We need some presence,” Kirk-Bauer said. “It’s embarrassing, this area. We need something else.”

The 10 or so speakers were split. It was a moot point. The county commissioners made it clear during their comments they wouldn’t approve the project.

Commissioner Sara Fisher said she is a proponent of mixed residential and commercial uses and she supports transit-oriented development. The Crown Mountain Plaza project has the advantage of being within walking distance of amenities like Crown Mountain Park, City Market and a bus stop, she noted, but the project is about twice the size of the density contemplated in Eagle County land-use documents. “It seems too big for the site,” Fisher said.

The proposal had two other strikes in Fisher’s opinion. It is under review at a time when the land-use master plan is being updated for the section of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley. Fisher and commissioner Arn Menconi said it would be best if the vision for the area was freshened before the project was reviewed.

A final strike in Fisher’s mind was that Eagle County has finally come to an understanding on land-use issues with the town of Basalt. The two governments are expected to signed an agreement which improves their cooperation on land-use reviews. Fisher said that it would be impossible for her to approve Crown Mountain Plaza on the eve of that agreement.

Basalt officials opposed the project on grounds that commercial development shouldn’t be approved outside of established towns, among other reasons.

Menconi said he wanted to see the developers address issues like increased traffic on midvalley roads.

The project was scheduled to come back before the commissioners on Oct. 28.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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