Grauer: Lower density, more local housing at The Fields

Eagle County commissioners should skeptically review a development that would shoehorn 135 residences into 19 acres near Crown Mountain Park, called ironically, “The Fields.”

If approved, it would create a template for “nodes” of unsustainable and environmentally damaging suburban sprawl from Basalt to Carbondale, mainly for second-home investors able to afford $1,000 a-square-foot new construction.

The new proposal offers a little more affordable, price-capped housing, but claims an inflated “public benefit” credit for 20 units of resident-only ones.

Roaring Fork Valley residents have always prized strong environmental safeguards, especially now, with its interlocking ecosystems so development stressed. County commissioners should approve 70 residences, half price-capped affordable and half of the remaining free-market, price-capped, resident-occupied.

Those limits would allow for slow, lower density development along the valley floor that would meet the real needs for affordable worker housing. It would also provide some attainable upper-middle-income housing for actual residents, not just investor/second-home owners.

Projects would develop more slowly, because outside, affordable-funding partnerships would have to be forged to take price pressure off the free market. The resident-only, free-market housing would sell more slowly, because price caps would keep units within the upper-middle-income range for families that actually want to become full-time members of the community.

Given the large number of free-market units approved and under construction at the Tree Farm, Stott’s Mill and Park Modern, there is little real demand for $1 million plus housing. The demand for approvals is generated by developers wanting to crank a money-making machine and investors wanting a real estate safe haven.

“The Fields” is a test of sustainable, environmental values. It also is a test of the county commissioners’ vision for the midvalley. I hope that they stick with the strong environmental values that gained them election.

Bernard Grauer