Revised El Jebel development proposal adds apartments, reduces commercial space | AspenTimes.com

Revised El Jebel development proposal adds apartments, reduces commercial space

Midvalley property owner Ace Lane and his development team have made extensive changes to a proposal for a residential and commercial project in the El Jebel area.

The revised application for the Tree Farm project reduces the number of residences from 400 to 340, caps the overall commercial square footage at 134,558 and reduces the acreage covered by the development from 71 to about 43.

The total square footage was reduced from 585,474 in the prior plan to 514,193.

The plan also caps the largest, single-use retail space at 30,000 square feet to assuage fears that Lane will try to entice the El Jebel City Market to move out of Basalt or attract a new grocery to compete with the Basalt markets.

The Tree Farm site is located on the north side of Highway 82, across from Whole Foods Market. The property is located just outside the Basalt town boundary so Eagle County government will review it.

Lane is pursuing the project through Woody Ventures LLC. The plan is in the second stage of Eagle County's three-stage review process. The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission voted in November 2015 to recommend denial of the project. Woody Ventures asked for the project to be tabled before it went to the county commissioners so changes could be made.

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Jon Fredericks, Woody Venture's land-use planner, said the revisions respond to concerns by the planning commission and general public. The input resulted in changes that make a "superior project," he wrote in a letter to the Eagle County Planning Office in October.

Hotel added to plan

The amount of commercial space that can be dedicated to uses such as restaurants, retail shops and offices was set at 74,000 square feet. There was no definitive maximum square footage in the prior plan.

Lane's team added a 60,000-square-foot hotel to the plan based on the perceived demand for such a facility. The new Element Hotel in Willits Town Center is completing a successful first year. David Marrs, Woody Venture's financial consultant, said hotel operators are interested in the site and are exploring the project further.

A 100-room hotel is being eyed. The Tree Farm team envisions a hotel that can offer extended-stay rooms like Elements.

The remainder of the commercial component is roughly eyed as 20,000 square feet of restaurants, 20,000 square feet of retail and 26,000 square feet of office space.

Affordable housing component

The project will provide 43 deed-restricted affordable housing units to meet Eagle County guidelines. However, a significant amount of the free-market units also will be priced to be "attainable" by workers in the Roaring Fork Valley, Marrs said. Townhouses were eliminated from the plan and apartments — which are in short supply in the Roaring Fork Valley — were added.

Fredericks said the free-market plan features approximately 180 apartments and 160 loft-condominiums. The apartments will be rented at prices that aren't much higher than the deed-restricted units, he said. The units will be small to help keep the prices affordable. The average size will be 1,117 square feet, the development team said.

Much of the housing will be built between Highway 82 and an existing water-skiing lake on Lane's property as well as to the west or downvalley side of the lake.

Marrs said 82 percent of the housing would be within one-quarter mile of an existing Bus Rapid Transit stop already constructed at Willits.

The revised plan eliminates 60 townhouses on the north side of the water-skiing lake.

Mike Scanlon, former town manager for Basalt and now a consultant on Lane's team (see side bar), said the high frequency of the bus service from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority creates great potential for a project that truly relies on mass transit rather than private vehicles.

Lane has committed to provide 20 parking spaces at the Tree Farm for transit users. In addition, the development will contribute $400,000 to RFTA for its use anywhere parking is needed.

The Tree Farm made a prior commitment to provide $910,000 for the pedestrian underpass that was built to serve the bus-rapid-transit bus stops at Willits. It's already paid for $52,500 for engineering, so it will make an $875,500 contribution if the project is approved.

Assessment for child care, housing

Lane's team also is volunteering to assess a 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Assessment that will raise revenue for Eagle County. Discussions must still be held with county officials, but the intent is to contribute the funds for use on affordable housing or child care, Scanlon said.

The assessment will generate an expected $2.6 million over 20 years and $4.5 million over 30 years.

The Tree Farm also has reached a preliminary agreement with Eagle County to fund additional law enforcement services based on an anticipated increase in calls for service because of the development.

Starting in year one of construction, Tree Farm would provide $66,000 annually to the Sheriff's Office for extra patrol officers in the Roaring Fork Valley. Once the project reaches 25 percent build-out, the payment would increase to $132,000 annually. The payment would escalate to match the Consumer Price Index.

The 43 deed restricted affordable-housing units would be built in the first phase of the project along with many of the free-market apartments. The project would be phased in over about 15 years, depending on the strength of the economy, Lane said.

No hearing date has been set yet by the Eagle County commissioners to renew review of the project. The Woody Ventures team hopes to start construction in 2018 if possible.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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