Eagle Co. a step closer to building tree farm offices | AspenTimes.com
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Eagle Co. a step closer to building tree farm offices

The Eagle County commissioners have marched one step closer to building a new office complex on the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm in El Jebel.

The commissioners directed their staff last week to negotiate a contract for design services for the building with Gibson-Reno Architects of Aspen.

The county is reserving a 5-acre site in the northeast corner of the 128-acre tree farm for an office building. Government officials are considering construction of a building of up to 20,000 square feet.

Using that site would allow two existing buildings to continue to be used for a skateboard park and a hockey rink, according to county officials.

The commissioners picked the new site for the office building last year, even though they haven’t taken the idea to midvalley residents.

County officials have said the public will receive ample opportunity to review the plan. However, public input will likely be used to mold a project at that site, not to determine whether that site is appropriate.

Town of Basalt officials have claimed that alternative midvalley sites make more sense from a land-use planning perspective. However, Eagle County officials said their lengthy review eliminated other sites due to estimated development costs.

The county already owns the tree farm property. The vast majority of that land will be preserved as open space and converted into athletic fields.

Eagle County planner Eric McCafferty said a comprehensive application for the recreation uses, open space and office building will likely be submitted within four to six weeks after a contract is negotiated with Gibson-Reno.

Once the application is prepared, the county will review its own project. However, McCafferty noted, consultants from Gibson-Reno rather than county staffers will be the proponents of the project when it gets reviewed by the government.

Before the plan is even formally submitted, it will likely be unveiled to midvalley residents.

“I don’t anticipate getting into a dark, smoky room with [the consultants] and saying ‘this is what we want to do’ then unveiling it at a planning commission meeting,” said McCafferty.

Once an application is submitted, it will follow the same path any project follows in the county review process.

Public hearings will be held by both the Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, which meets in Basalt, and by the Eagle County commissioners. Although the commissioners say they must make formal decisions at the county seat in Eagle, there are indications they will hold public hearings on the plan in the midvalley.

One topic likely to draw public debate is the condition of the intersection of Highway 82 and Valley Road. The new office building will draw more activity to an intersection already congested as busy times with traffic generated by City Market.

Eagle County’s track record on traffic and pedestrian issues in that neighborhood leaves something to be desired, according to some midvalley residents.

Basalt officials have grumbled that they must spend an estimated $30,000 for a sidewalk to connect a pedestrian underpass beneath Highway 82 to City Market’s sidewalk. Although Eagle County approved City Market and the surrounding Orchard Plaza commercial development, no sidewalks were required.

Eagle County has also been criticized by midvalley residents for the condition of the intersection of Highway 82 and El Jebel Road. Residents claim that road improvements haven’t kept pace with the traffic generated by new developments approved by the county.

McCafferty said the county will be responsible for addressing traffic its office generates at the intersection of the highway and Valley Road. The county staff recognizes a need “to make sure those intersections work better than they do now,” he said.

McCafferty invited midvalley residents with questions about the tree farm office building review process to call him at 970-328-8605.


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