Survey: keep Wolcott rural, open
October 1, 2007
WOLCOTT, Colo. ” Plans to develop Wolcott should maintain the area’s open, rural qualities and provide the county with much-needed affordable housing, many Eagle County residents said.
Residents had a chance to chime in on development plans for the unincorporated Wolcott through an online survey earlier this summer. More than 100 people took the survey, and it received more than 1,000 comments, county officials said.
County staff and Shapins Associates, the county’s planning consultants, are summarizing the results and hope to come up with a plan that will satisfy both residents and county goals, said Eagle County Senior Planner Cliff Simonton.
Wolcott, located on the Interstate 70 corridor between Eagle and Edwards, has limited space and final plans will need to have a balance between development, housing and keeping views, he said.
“Wolcott is difficult because it’s not big enough to support a town on its own. You could easily over-do it,” he said.
Final plans will be completed and presented to the community in 2008. After that it will come before the planning commission, Simonton said.
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Survey results showed that most residents preferred that the Wolcott of the future have a small-town feel, with plenty of open space.
Many suggested small businesses that would provide basics such as a grocery store, small shops and restaurant, surrounded by some medium-density housing, allowing residents to live and work in Wolcott, located west of the county’s big economic drivers ” Vail and Beaver Creek.
“We should protect Wolcott’s rural heritage and leave one little place in Eagle County that still feels like the western slope of Colorado,” one respondent said.
However, not everyone felt that Wolcott should remain rural.
Some expressed preferences for bigger centers, ranging from a community center with a few more houses, businesses and parks, to a town center, the largest-scale plan.
Most who responded wanted the Wolcott center to be around the I-70 interchange and include the Highway 6 and Highway 131 intersection. There is already some development there with the Wolcott Yacht Club and the post office, and it would be easy to access major roadways, respondents said.
Wolcott’s “town center” will probably be in that area, Simonton said, but it may not be at the major intersections that residents suggested. The problem with those intersections is that they are not pedestrian-friendly and could cause traffic problems like those in Edwards in the future, he said.
“Now (in Edwards) we have four disconnected corners that pedestrians have a heck of a time getting across,” Simonton said. “Maybe we want the main street to be a little off of the main intersections.”
Preserving open space was a top concern no matter what level of development residents preferred.
The survey also asked residents what should be done with other parts of Wolcott, including the lower part of Bellyache Ridge, north Wolcott and the land surrounding the Eagle River.
Many respondents wanted to see a mix of development with small-scale housing developments and essentials such as a school, fire station and stores, but they also urged that the views and fields of Wolcott be preserved.
It is possible to build in places where the views are not-so-great and avoid ruining the great views, Simonton said.
“And just because a view is great doesn’t mean that it won’t still be great if you build something there,” he said.
It is also important to protect the river, many residents said, allowing only a few access points.
People see Wolcott development as a chance to provide affordable housing for county residents, Simonton said.
“Folks are desperate for affordable places to live in the valley,” he said.
Residents did not want to see the area become a highway stop, nor did they want an influx of large second homes, the survey showed.
“This county needs more housing for average folk, who cannot afford a house on 35 acres,” one respondent said.
Wolcott should not have to solve all the county’s housing problems, but if housing is going to be built there, it should be affordable, some commented.
“If anything, there should be more development like Miller Ranch that can keep and attract the working class,” one participant said.
Keeping open space and building more affordable housing do not necessarily have to be conflicting goals, Simonton said.
“I don’t believe the character of Wolcott should be negatively impacted by driving too much affordability into the mix,” he said.