Midvalley presents mixed message on tree farm office | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley presents mixed message on tree farm office

The midvalley will deliver a mixed message to the Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday when the final debate begins over the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm’s future.

The Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to recommend approval of a government office building and community center at the tree farm.

That message is at odds with one already sent by the Basalt Town Council and a midvalley citizens group.

Basalt officials are pressuring the county commissioners to build the 15,000-square-foot facility at the Willits project. They have spiced their offer by promising free land and waiving infrastructure costs.

Meanwhile, 200 midvalley residents signed a petition encouraging consideration of Willits and imploring the county commissioners to debate the issue in Basalt or El Jebel rather than in the county seat of Eagle, 55 miles away.

The demand for local hearings was universal.

“I am in total agreement that the Eagle County commissioners should come over here and talk to the citizenry about this project,” said planning commission chairman Gary Ross.

Ross approved the tree farm proposal along with planning commissioners Bob Schultz and Kim Johnson. In opposition were Temple Glassier and Mary Holley, who stated preferences for the Willits site in earlier meetings.

Ross said it would be difficult for people like him, who opposed Willits for being “in the wrong place,” to support placing the office/community center there. However, he downplayed the dispute over where the facility should go.

“I don’t think either site is the end of the world as we know it,” he said.

The county commissioners are scheduled to consider the tree farm project Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Eagle County Courthouse. Midvalley activists hope to send a bus-load of citizens over to comment.

Along with the office/community center, the plan features two ball fields, two soccer fields and a wide variety of other recreational amenities.

If the proposal is approved, Eagle County plans to break ground on the building this spring. Funds still have to be found for the recreational facilities.

Some midvalley residents contend the approval process for the project was a sham and that the Eagle County Commissioners intended to approve their project despite public sentiments.

Citizen leader Laurie Gish-Soliday spent a half-hour at the planning commission meeting citing alleged flaws in the county process. Some of her arguments were compelling – particularly proof that Eagle County signed a contract with Rudd Construction on Dec. 18 for construction of the tree farm building. The contract plus the lack of response to the petition does little to build the government’s credibility, Gish-Soliday charged.

“Let’s be honest here, the commissioners did not even acknowledge 200 people,” Gish-Soliday said.

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