Midvalley board, citizens at odds over density designation at The Fields
The Aspen Times
The people spoke but they don’t believe their representatives in Eagle County government listened.
An angry crowd filed out of a Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission meeting Thursday evening after the volunteer board voted 3-4 to uphold a decision that will likely influence density of a residential development called The Fields.
The planning commission majority rejected a motion to reconsider how much potential growth to designate on The Fields site, a 19-acre parcel across Highway 82 from the Blue Lakes entrance.
“Shame on you people. Unbelievable,” said longtime Summit Vista resident Ron Kinnel as he and roughly 50 other people abruptly left the room.
The discussion culminated a mostly sedate reconsideration of something called the Mid-Valley Area Community Plan that’s taken place over the last six months. The community plan is a blueprint for future growth. While it doesn’t grant approvals for specific projects, the Eagle County commissioners have said they place a great deal of stock in the plan when making their decisions on projects.
On May 17, the planning commission majority recommended a higher of two levels of density under consideration for The Fields by a 3-2 vote. There was strong community pushback when about 100 people showed up at the June 14 meeting to demand reconsideration.
At last night’s meeting, commission members Charles Spickert, Temple Glassier and Judith Kula voted to designate The Fields low density residential, which advises one to four residences per acre.
Commission members Michael Luciano, Phillip Ring, Robert Andre and Curtis Vaughn supported sticking with moderate density residential, which advises five to seven units per acre.
Eagle County officials anticipated a raucous meeting. They had a deputy sheriff attend the hearing. While there was grumbling and some interruptions of planning commission members by the audience, there was nothing anywhere close to violent behavior.
During the brief hearing, Spickert argued the density designation for The Fields should be reduced from what it was in 2013 because conditions have changed. The midvalley was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession five years ago so people were more willing to accept growth, he said.
“Now the attitude is, ‘We don’t have an appetite for continued growth,’” Spickert said.
Glassier said reconsideration was warranted because the public spoke so clearly on the issue.
Luciano tried to assure the audience they had been heard during the process. “We get it,” he told the crowd.
But he said he was looking for quantifiable information that shows changes have occurred since 2013 that would warrant a lower density designation at The Fields. There needs to be a finding such as the water and sewer district can’t handle the growth, he said. No such condition exists, he said.
Andre and Vaughn said they saw no reason to reconsider the May 17 vote.
“I’m OK with that vote,” Andre said. “I don’t have a desire to go back and revisit that issue.”
Kula and Ring didn’t participate in the May 17 vote. Kula sided with Spickert and Glassier last night, thus making Ring the swing vote. After counting heads, Ring settled the issue by voting to grant The Fields the higher density designation.
The Mid-Valley Area Community Plan retains goals of limiting growth in the Eagle County portions of Emma, Missouri Heights and Fryingpan Valley. But the direction on the Highway 82 corridor rankled many of the residents in neighborhoods of El Jebel.
Midvalley activist Ken Ransford had suggested earlier in the evening that sticking to the vote would have consequences for Eagle County government with many of its residents in the midvalley.
“I’m just suggesting you have a credibility problem and if you pass that plan as is, you’re not going to solve that problem,” Ransford said.
The community plan likely gives the developers of The Fields the justification they need to seek up to 110 residences on their property.