Eagle County, Town partner on open space purchase | SummitDaily.com

Eagle County, Town partner on open space purchase

Kathy Heicher
eagle county correspondent

Fishermen, rejoice.

The Eagle Town Board and Eagle County will partner on the purchase of the 34.7 acre “Green Bridge” property along the Eagle River east of town for public open space.

Total cost of the parcel is $5 million. The Town Board voted Tuesday evening to allocate $1 million out of the Eagle Open Space fund for the purchase. The Eagle County commissioners have not formally voted to spend money on the parcel; but have agreed to spend up to $4 million for the property. Both entities will be seeking financial support from other sources, including a developer, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, and possible the Great Outdoors Colorado grant program.

Currently, the parcel, which includes both sides of the river, is owned by Vail businessman Merv Lapin. The river property is adjacent to the town boundary.

Developer Matt Dietz holds an option on the land, and had been contemplating a residential development on the property.

“All parties agree that this land would be better used for open space and passive recreation than residential housing,” said Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell, “We view this as a great partnership between the county and the town.” He said the deal came together quickly because of a deadline imposed by Dietz.

County Commissioner Arn Menconi said county officials had been hearing rumors that the property might be available for open space purchase.

“I think this could trigger the protection of all the lands along the river east of Eagle. I’m 110 percent behind this,” he said. Menconi noted that the parcel would help preserve boundaries and provide an undeveloped buffer area for the town.

Both Menconi and Powell noted that the property meets the goals of both the county and the town’s open space programs.

There are a number of potential players in the deal. Vince Riggio, the developer proposing the controversial Eagle River Station project, has agreed to contribute $1 million to the open space purchase ” if his project is approved. In return, he would be credited for some of the open space requirements for his project. Essentially, the developer would be reimbursing the town.

“If Eagle River Station is never approved, that means the town will have spent $1 million,” said Powell.

Menconi said that in order to meet the seller’s deadline, the county will initially pull money from its supplemental budget. However, the town and county will make a formal request for money to the county’s Open Space Advisory Committee. Both the county and the town have revenues specifically dedicated to open space.

The local governments will also be seeking help from the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a private organization that raises money for open space purchase; and will likely also seek a grant through the state’s GOCO program, which has assisted with previous open space purchase.

The entire deal is contingent upon the execution of an intergovernmental agreement between the town and the county that likely will spell out the intended use of the land. Powell said the town’s view is that he property should be used for passive recreation, and open space, including fishing access, paths, trails, and possibly picnic areas.

“It is unlikely there would be development such as playing fields or vertical structures,” he said.

The is potential for a bike pedestrian path that would hook up to town easements in the Commercial Park and possibly provide a future connection to the county’s trail system.

This story appeared first in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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