The Fields developer quits subdivision in El Jebel after years of trying to get it approved |

The Fields developer quits subdivision in El Jebel after years of trying to get it approved

An aerial view shows the layout of the 135 residences proposed in the now withdrawn The Fields project in El Jebel The existing Summit Vista subdivision is on the right in this view.
Image from application submitted to Eagle County

After years of planning and numerous meetings in front of the Eagle Board of County Commissioners, the applicants to develop The Fields residential property in El Jebel withdrew their application.

The commissioners agreed that the application met standards for compatibility with surrounding land use and conformance with the comprehensive plan with proposed conditions, but that the public benefit required to upzone land was insufficient. 

“I think we all struggled mightily with this file, and we all came down very similarly,” Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said. “We certainly are in dire need of workforce housing over here. That gets us to the public benefit piece …. Our guidelines are based on a project that meets all the criteria. This one has to meet public benefit.”

County staff recommended approval of the application, but once the commissioners entered deliberation and it became clear that they would deny it, applicant representatives ultimately decided to withdraw the application. 

A withdrawal allows applicants to resubmit at any time, but the process starts from the beginning. If the application had been denied, a year must pass before resubmission is allowed. 

Fields Development Group LLC first applied to construct 135 residences on 11 lots on a 19.39 acre lot in El Jebel, across Highway 82 from the Blue Lake subdivision nearly three years ago, according to an applicant representative. 

The land is currently zoned Rural Residential, which allows development of one home per 2 acres. The applicant requested an upzoning on the land to residential multi-family, on which county zoning rules allow up to nine dwelling units per acre.

To offset an upzoning, an applicant must provide public benefit. 

Jon Hendricks of Carbondale-based firm Landwest and Evan Schreiber of LightBox Development and planning partner of The Fields, laid out plans for deed-restricted units over the multiple meetings including: affordable-housing units, a sidewalk/trail to connect the development to Crown Mountain Park, open space, and funding for traffic improvements at the nearby intersection. 

Approximately 40% of those units would be deed-restricted or affordable housing. The Fields committed to at least 34 price-capped units and 20 owner-occupied units, much higher than current county affordable-housing requirements in new residential developments. 

Still, 81 units of the development would be free-market without residency restrictions. 

The commissioners felt the increase in density through a development with mostly free-market housing was not worth what the applicants offered as mitigation for the upzoning.

“The community might feel differently about us approving density when you’re sitting next to your kid’s teacher in traffic,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. 

And long-term responsibility of maintenance on the proposed sidewalk/trail to the nearest public transportation proved tricky, though applicants conceded that they or the homeowners’ association would maintain the trail in perpetuity at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The applicant also committed to 6 acres of open space on the property, also to be maintained by a homeowners association. 

The project received a massive amount of negative feedback from community members, mostly critical of the jump in density. Many sent public comments to the commissioners electronically and spoke at hours-long public comment periods at prior meetings.

Still, some spoke in favor of the development. They mostly referenced the affordable-housing allowances. 

Commissioner Matt Scherr took time to point out that while public comment regarding standards on granting the upzoning were helpful, comments solely disparaging the prospect of development or and attacking county staff were not. 

“Unfortunately ‘popular’ is not a standard,” he said. “It doesn’t even matter if (the commissioners) like it.”

Fredericks and Schreiber questioned if they might postpone the discussion and return to the commissioners with an amended application, likely with stronger public benefit plans.

Commissioner McQueeney shut that down. 

“We’re not trying to provide you feedback. That’s not how a plan is presented. We ask questions along the way,” she said.

Schreiber declined to comment immediately following the meeting. It is unclear if or when Fields Development Group LLC will apply again.


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