Tree Farm: Right idea, wrong spot
Almost anywhere else, developer Ace Lane’s Tree Farm project would be greeted as a welcome addition to the community. More than half of Lane’s proposed residences are deed-restricted affordable units; he’s offsetting the El Jebel development’s electrical consumption with solar and hydropower, and the buildings themselves will be energy-efficient. The whole project has a pedestrian/mass-transit orientation, so Lane hopes to minimize the traffic impacts.
Unfortunately, this admirable project is proposed in a neighborhood that doesn’t need the new housing or commercial space ” at least not this much of it ” and that arguably cannot absorb any more people and automobiles without creating an urban-style snarl of congestion and exhaust.
El Jebel does not need another 319 residences and 96,000 square feet of commercial space directly across Highway 82 from the still-developing Willits Town Center. Between Willits, the Tree Farm proposal and the Shadowrock townhouse project just off El Jebel Road, the once-sleepy area between Basalt and Carbondale is gradually turning into the hub of a midvalley mini-tropolis that will stretch from Emma to Catherine.
Two new stoplights have already been added to Highway 82 in the El Jebel-Willits corridor in the last few years, and yet new developments continue to force more cars onto the highway and more turnoffs to complicate traffic flow.
The irony of the situation is that, despite what this over-development is doing to the character and livability of the midvalley, Lane’s project largely complies with the regulations and master plans of both Eagle County and Basalt. So, it’s hard to see how local governments expect to get a handle on the increasing sprawl and traffic around El Jebel.
All we can hope at this point is that the Eagle County commissioners ” who are scheduled to take their first formal look at the project on June 30 ” give the Tree Farm proposal a serious and critical review, in light of everything happening nearby. The Tree Farm itself isn’t the problem; but when combined with the approved-but-unbuilt development all around it, it’s simply too much.
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