Tough land-use issues the next hurdle for midvalley rec center
EL JEBEL – The debate over the midvalley recreation center in El Jebel has focused so far on emotional issues like the needs of the community versus the taxpayer burden. That is likely to change in two meetings this month when land-use issues move to the forefront.
The Roaring Fork Regional Planning and Zoning Commission will renew its review of the project at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Eagle County office building in El Jebel. The board is likely to take an advisory vote.
Eagle County commissioners are scheduled to begin their review Tuesday, June 28.
The Eagle County planning staff suggested the planning commission focus on the scale of the facility as well as the parking it will require and the traffic it will generate.
Proponents want to build a 63,000-square-foot indoor recreation center a few hundred yards west of the existing Eagle County building in El Jebel. The facility would be built on the edge of the open space at Crown Mountain Park, just off Valley Road.
To put the building in perspective, it would be about five times larger – in size, not necessarily footprint – than the existing Eagle County office building, which is 12,000 square feet.
The 63,000-square-foot building is for the first phase of the project. Proponents are also seeking approval for a 14,000-square-foot gymnastics center and a 10,400-square-foot, six-lane lap pool that would be built in a later phase. At build-out, the indoor recreation center would be 85,400 square feet.
Approvals are also being sought for a 40,000-square-foot indoor ice rink and a 36,000-square-foot indoor tennis facility as phases three and four, to be built an undetermined time in the future.
If proponents receive approvals from Eagle County, they may approach voters as soon as November for permission to issue $25 million in bonds to build the 63,000-square-foot structure. The bonds would be repaid by a property tax increase in the midvalley.
A second ballot question would seek a property tax hike to provide $500,000 annually to subsidize the rec centers operations.
In a summary of the Eagle County planning staff’s evaluation of the proposal, planner Bob Narracci wrote, “The scale of the proposed recreation center facilities requires consideration.”
Narracci also noted that it may make sense to move the recreation center closer to the existing office building to improve compatibility with the neighborhood, and to take advantage of shared parking.
Proponents say they have looked at more than 20 possible sites and picked the one proposed because it creates the least visual impact and leaves the highest amount of the park as open space.
The recreation center will require 254 spaces, although not all for the first phase. Roughly 160 parking spaces already exist at Crown Mountain to serve the county building, the ball fields and recreation amenities. In addition, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority wants to create a park-and-ride lot with 114 parking spaces one-third of a mile to the east. That would create more than 500 parking spaces within less than a mile.
“It must be noted that the Board of County Commissioners, as landlords of the Mount Sopris Tree Farm property, have expressed great concern regarding the substantial increase of surface parking” in the area, said a memo to the planning commission from Narracci. The commissioners want the county, recreation district and RFTA to explore consolidated parking.
“The Board feels that the proposed recreation center facilities are sited too far away from the existing county building and parking lot to facilitate convenient shared parking arrangements” and too far away from the RFTA lot, the memo said.
Traffic will be the third issue under the county microscope. Narracci noted that Eagle County shares concerns with Basalt and Pitkin County, which were asked for their thoughts on the proposal. “The traffic impacts of the proposed development and future proposed RFTA development on an adjacent property will compromise the goal of safe vehicular and pedestrian circulation in and around the intersection of Valley Road-El Jebel Road and Highway 82,” the planning staff memo said.
Part of a possible solution will be realigning the main El Jebel intersection, something the rec center proponents said they support and would contribute to, as long as they don’t get stuck with the entire bill.
Information on the proposal and position on the size, site, parking and location is available at http://www.midvalleyreccenter.com.
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