Stop the midvalley growth explosion
Eagle County commissioners, “we have a problem.”
When those words were first sent by the Apollo 13 astronauts 47 years ago this week, it was to report an explosion on board the spacecraft. I am sending those words to you today because we, the Roaring Fork Valley residents of Eagle County, often feel far away from the county home base. We often feel as though we are communicating from a remote distance and are only barely heard.
And we are suffering an explosion. We are suffering an explosion of growth, an explosion of traffic, an explosion that threatens our quality of life.
The Tree Farm project would only add fuel to the explosion we are experiencing. It would create a fourth “town” along a 3-mile stretch of Highway 82 that already includes El Jebel, Willits and Basalt.
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The town of Basalt has asked that the preliminary plan be denied for how this project will generate too much unneeded growth, too much traffic.
The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, your own advisory group set up specifically to communicate to you, our commissioners, has recommended that this application be denied because it will overwhelm our midvalley.
Yet three weeks ago, the Eagle County planning staff issued their recommendation to approve this application, with yet more conditions that have still not been resolved but nonetheless to approve. Are we so far away that our message is garbled?
So let me be clear.
Under the Eagle County land-use code, the preliminary plan must “conform” to the sketch plan and should respond to the 24 conditions of approval of the sketch plan with “detailed properly engineered solutions.”
This preliminary plan not only doesn’t conform to the sketch plan, it doesn’t even resemble it. Gone are all 128 affordable-housing units for sale. Gone also are the 41 dedicated “resident only” units. Affordable housing has dropped from 52 percent of the proposed housing units to less than 12 percent. Yet planning staff believes it still conforms to the previous plan.
While Ace Lane and his team claim many changes have been made in response to multiple concerns expressed in the public hearings, the only concern I can see addressed by his 40 percent increase for commercial square footage over the sketch plan proposal must be for his development’s bottom line, because it certainly doesn’t “conform” or respond to any expressed concern that the project doesn’t have enough commercial space.
The “detailed, properly engineered solution” to the geological and soil problems identified by the Colorado Geological Survey is not to solve the potential soil problems but to make future homeowners responsible and personally liable for any issues, and planning staff recommends leaving that to be addressed at some point in the future. Really?
The lack of any senior housing, a concern from the sketch plan, is neither addressed nor provided. Yet the planning staff gives it a big “ole’” and lets it pass without comment.
The main intersection the proposed Tree Farm project would use already suffers occasional gridlock, which I define as when the light turns green, there’s so much traffic that cars still can’t move. The traffic study for the applicant acknowledges that more than 5,000 additional car trips will be generated by the project, but then goes on to assure us that cars will actually get through the intersection twice as fast because CDOT is going to improve traffic flow with high-tech traffic signals. My response is that the bridge I’d like to sell you is the new “Basalt Bypass Bridge” that valley commuters hope starts in Emma and goes all the way past El Jebel to avoid the traffic mess underneath. No exit ramps would be necessary!
And I could go on and on, but my time is running out.
Madame commissioners, please hear us. Please abide by the rules of the Eagle County land-use code and, yes, please listen to us the citizens rather than your planning staff. Please deny this preliminary plan application and help us avert this looming explosion that threatens our quality of life.
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