El Jebel developer touts his green credentials
September 4, 2006
Ace Lane is convinced he has a template for green, sustainable development in the Roaring Fork Valley – if people look beyond the numbers when judging his proposed project in the heart of El Jebel.Lane, who owns the water-ski lake and club across Highway 82 from the El Jebel City Market, is seeking approval from Eagle County for an ambitious project on his 200 acres. He wants to build more than 200 residences and 93,500 square feet of commercial space. The project is called Tavaci.He is frustrated that all the attention so far has been on the size rather than the quality of his project, he said in a recent interview.The numbers don’t tell the story of a development that embraces nature and the surrounding landscape rather than tames it, Lane said. Numbers don’t reveal how an extensive trail network encourages people to get out of their cars rather than simply pay lip service to “pedestrian friendliness.” And numbers don’t show how alternative energy sources will be relied on as heavily as possible on the southern-exposed site.Lane has a record that indicates he means what he says. His house and office tap solar energy and often return power to the electrical grid. His hulking pickup runs on propane; his family’s Ford Excursion runs on bio-diesel.He is a fitness fanatic who cringes at the grocery shopping options in the midvalley. He is in negotiations with a natural grocer which, if landed, would occupy a 55,000-square-foot space. The store would be made more inviting than the typical suburban grocery with a heavily-landscaped parking lot, approaches that don’t have pedestrians fearing for their lives and a roof with grass, trees and natural vegetation.Lane became most animated when discussing how extensively the entire project will be landscaped. Planting trees, he said, is the key to absorbing the carbon that humans produce and easing global warming.Sustainable living is more than a catchphrase for him. “This is something I live. This is no bullshit,” he said.So why doesn’t he just plant trees on the entire 200-acre site? Lane insisted he has a passion to create and show that development can be done in an environmentally-friendly way. The desirability of the Roaring Fork Valley assures that more growth will occur, he said. He wants to set a standard through leading by example. The architecture will be “funky and cool,” he said. The core of the residential neighborhood revolves around a few circular streets, along with pedestrian trails, rather than a traditional grid pattern. About 45 percent of the 200 acres will remain open.The original plan included a 132-unit condominium hotel that provided a total of 256 rentable rooms. That was scrapped and replaced with townhouses and condominiums after the Eagle County planning office wrote in its review that the level of density proposed was foreseen in master plans for that part of the valley.The proposal is now for 24 single-family homes, 77 residences of various types that are mixed in with commercial uses, and roughly 160 townhouses and condominiums clustered in buildings with two to eight units.Lane said he needs high density to offset the increased costs of building high-efficiency and environmentally-friendly units as well as a higher level of landscaping.”If it was density for lining my pockets, I would have done it a long time ago,” he said.Lane had prior approvals from Eagle County that included 80,000 square feet of commercial space and a 60-room hotel. He said he was approached by big-box retailers and fast food franchises that wanted to build on his land. He rebuffed their advances.He allowed those approvals to expire, he said, because he has become more enlightened about the type of development he wants.”I want this to be a place where people want to be,” Lane said. “And I’m going to live here.”Lane and his family live along the hillside on the property, separated from Highway 82 by a forest of pinyon and juniper trees. Lane bought the property in 1991 and applied to build the water-ski lake along Highway 82. He wanted to establish a club where people would buy access to practice water skiing, but more important, to hang out and have a good time, he said.Lane said many people thought he was crazy. Bankers wouldn’t lend him money for the concept. But he prevailed and the lake proved successful. He is confident his concept for the larger development will be similarly successful.Lane considers himself anti-NIMBY, referring to the Not In My Backyard feeling that prevails against development.”Why not in my back yard – if it’s done right,” he said.Tavaci review starts ThursdayAce Lane will get his opportunity to sell his vision of his development Thursday, Sept. 7, to the Roaring Fork Regional Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as the public.The planning commission, a branch of Eagle County government, will begin review of Lane’s Tavaci project in a meeting that starts at 2:30 p.m. at the Eagle County offices and community center in El Jebel. The meeting is open to the public.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.