Board advises denial of Fields development in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Board advises denial of Fields development in El Jebel

The Fields project, with 97 to 110 residential units, is proposed on 19 acres of pasture and agricultural land across Highway 82 from Blue Lake subdivision.

For the second time in two months, a midvalley planning commission voted to advise the Eagle County commissioners to reject a major land-use development proposal in the El Jebel area.

The Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission voted 4-1 to reject a subdivision proposal called The Fields. Last month, the board recommended denial of the Tree Farm, a proposal for as many as 400 residences and 135,000 square feet of commercial space.

Both projects will still advance to the Eagle County commissioners for a final resolution.

The developer of The Fields proposed between 97 and 110 residences on 19.39 acres of land on the south side of Highway 82, across from Blue Lake.

Planning commission members expressed concerns about density, traffic and the layout of the subdivision.

"I think the development is too dense," said planning commission member Catherine Markle. She also said the residences could be clustered to preserve the agricultural heritage of the site and minimize affects on existing homes to the east and west. The current design has single-family homes, duplexes and apartments spread across 60 percent of the property.

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The site is currently zoned for one residential unit per two acres. The developer asked for rezoning that would allow 5.6 units per acre. Summit Vista, a subdivision to the east, has 51 units on 20 acres, so it's about half as dense.

Planning Commissioner Charles Spickert said traffic was a potential "fatal flaw" for The Fields. He suggested the developers should try to solve traffic issues before seeking approval.

The development group proposed installing a traffic signal at Highway 82's intersection with Valley Road and JW Drive and helping install the fiber-optic system necessary to better coordinate stoplights in the midvalley.

Keith Ehlers, the developer's representative, also said they were willing to spend funds needed to improve traffic flow for the next 15 years on the south side of Highway 82 and El Jebel Road. However, Eagle County Engineer Eva Wilson said there is a plan in place for a more comprehensive improvement to the intersection and frontage road in that area. She didn't support the developer's partial solution.

Planning commission members also cited the lack of improvements to Valley Road as a problem.

Voting for denial were Spickert, Markle, Temple Glassier and Judith Kula. Commission member Kim Bock supported the application.

By the same vote, the board voted against rezoning of the property.

The development team touted the project as a champion for affordable housing. The plan included 27 affordable-housing units and other units "attainable" for the valley's working folks. Ehlers said some members of the ownership group live in the Roaring Fork Valley and are aware of the housing shortage. They aim to ease the problem, not make a quick buck.

"We aren't flying in looking for land to pillage," he said.

The vote came after a 4½-hour session that included public comment with opponents and supporters. The debate boiled down to quality of life versus the need for affordable housing. Supporters said affordable housing is needed for families who cannot afford to live further upvalley.

Foes said the additional traffic, noise and light pollution from the development would impact the quality of life in the midvalley. Some speakers also contended the project was too dense to be compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.

Glassier said she felt the project proposed the right mix of housing at an appropriate site. However, she said she couldn't approve additional development in the midvalley until the infrastructure is approved to handle it.

scondon@aspentimes.com

WHAT THEY SAID

Following are written comments submitted to Eagle County on The Fields application. About 27 comments were turned in as of earlier this week, evenly split in favor and against. Additional people spoke at Thursday’s meeting, a majority opposed.

John Maxwell: “CDOT specifically rejected the notion of installing a light at JW Drive and Highway 82. That’s why they built merge lanes and exit lanes a year ago. Several hundred more cars per day going into and out of the area would be untenable.”

Jennifer Emig: “To oppose this development is literally a slap in the face to those of us who are working class professionals (and even more so to those that are at the bottom of the income chain). My husband and I make a very comfortable living with our combined incomes, comfortable for anywhere but here. We collectively in the valley need housing in a very urgent way.”

Chris Weaver and Patrick Sieders used the same language in separate emails, indicating use of a form letter: “Just because it is not in the political interests of Basalt or Pitkin County who fail to recognize El Jebel as a Community Center does not mean the needs of the greater Roaring Fork Valley should be ignored.”

Bryce Halverson: “I’m writing this email to oppose the Fields subdivision. This is a reply to a post of Facebook asking for support for this subdivision. El Jebel is already over populated as is.”

Auden Schendler: “Basically plopping another town into the mid valley goes against all basic, good-sense planning principles. … We haven’t even built out Willits, itself arguably a bad planning decision, and now we’re looking at sprawling out even more.”

Walter Silveira: “Please do not allow political agitators and classist, elitist ‘NIMBYs’ to blockade development of affordable housing for present and future young professionals. Their selfish, shortsighted, and isolationist concerns over property values and Luddite obsession with ‘rural sensibility’ are hobbling our economic and social development.”

Clayton Smith: “I am writing this letter to beg that you approve the Fields Subdivision Sketch Plan. I have seen the bickering over the years between those who live here now and don’t think anyone else should be allowed to move in and ruin their view vs. those who realize that growth is inevitable and must be planned for properly in order to preserve the values of the region.”

Summit Vista Homeowners Association: “This proposal is too tight and has too many flaws to allow them to proceed.”

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