El Jebel Tree Farm enters review with advantage | AspenTimes.com

El Jebel Tree Farm enters review with advantage

EL JEBEL ” A large development proposal in the midvalley has cleared one important hurdle as it enters Eagle County’s review process on Thursday.

The Tree Farm application for 319 residences and 94,000 square feet of commercial space received a generally favorable assessment from the Eagle County planning staff. The proposed project would be located in El Jebel, across Highway 82 from the Willits Town Center. The property owner and developer is Ace Lane.

County planners found the proposal meets several major land-use regulations, including the amount of affordable housing, compatibility with the surrounding area and compliance with Basalt’s land-use objectives, according to a memo released Sunday.

But the staff memo pussyfoots around the issue that critics have concentrated on ” traffic. Ken Ransford, a midvalley resident and Basalt businessman, expressed concerns to Basalt officials last week that the Tree Farm will create too much impact on an already dense area.

In addition to existing developments like Summit Vista, Blue Lake, the El Jebel Mobile Home Park and Sopris Village, the broader El Jebel area also has the Shadowrock townhouses, the Orchard Plaza commercial development with City Market, and Willits Town Center.

Ransford asked the Basalt Town Council to conduct a study to determine if the midvalley can absorb additional traffic from the Tree Farm project.

The Eagle County planning staff memo notes the Tree Farm will generate nearly 3,400 new vehicle trips per day in the midvalley, but there was no analysis on how that would affect the intersection of Highway 82 and lower Willits Lane or other area roads. The planning staff credited the Tree Farm for “transit-oriented” features such as walking paths, land for a major bus stop for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and funding help for a pedestrian underpass beneath the highway ” all steps that can reduce private vehicle use.

“Although the proposed mixed-use development will impact roads by introducing approximately 3,390 additional vehicle trips per day to the area, the design of the project goes a long way toward the creation of compact, transit-oriented and sustainable development in the Mid Valley region,” the planning staff memo says.

The Tree Farm also scored praise for exceeding current regulations in both Eagle County and Basalt for affordable housing. About 35 percent of the square footage in the residential part of the project will be affordable housing, meeting Eagle County requirements, the memo says. In another way of looking at it, 53 percent of the total residential units will be affordable housing, exceeding Basalt’s requirement for similar types of projects.

The plan features 128 residences with caps on sales prices and appreciation rates, and limits on assets of buyers; 41 units that must be occupied by full-time, year-round residents; and 150 free-market units. The project isn’t intended for second-home owners, according to the planning staff memo, but there was no discussion of how Lane would discourage that type of buyer.

The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, an advisory branch of Eagle County government, starts review of the Tree Farm at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the El Jebel Community Center. The project also will be reviewed by the Eagle County commissioners at a later date.


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