Town of Eagle rejects big shopping center |

Town of Eagle rejects big shopping center

eagle county correspondent

EAGLE ” Eagle has said no to a big-box store, at least for now.

One month after endorsing the Red Mountain Ranch shopping center, the Eagle Town Board Tuesday night reversed its decision.

After five hours of discussion, the board voted 4-2 not to annex the land on which longtime local developer Merv Lapin wanted to build his Red Mountain Ranch shopping center that was to have included a Costco.

But that doesn’t mean the land, which is now a cow pasture in unincorporated Eagle County, will remain undeveloped, as some opponents of the project hope.

Despite turning Lapin down, several town board members said they expect something will be built eventually on the land between Interstate 70 and Highway 6.

“This piece is a commercial piece,” board member Ed Woodland said. “The deal is not right.”

Board members said they were frustrated because Lapin’s proposal had changed. The board’s earlier approval of the 442-acre project came with stringent conditions that Lapin said would make it difficult to attract a major retailer.

Lapin then made a counter-proposal, and he had been negotiating for the past four weeks with Eagle town manager Willy Powell.

Add to the mix persistent rumors that the big-box retailer expected at Red Mountain Ranch, Costco, is being courted by the town of Gypsum ” or, has already decided to open a store there.

“If Costco goes to Gypsum, others will follow,” Lapin said, urging the board to shape conditions that would give him some leeway in negotiating with national retailers.

Lapin receives telephone inquiries every week from national retailers interested in coming to the area, and, most recently, he said, he has received inquiries from the Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s restaurant chains.

He also made an offer to Cabelas, an outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, while continuing negotiations with Costco, he said.

Lapin said he’s considering splitting the land, which includes 149 acres along the Eagle River that the town wants for open space, into 35-acre parcels. He has repeatedly warned he would sell the land off in smaller pieces if his project isn’t approved.

Powell warned the council that 35-acre parcels often end up split into smaller parcels, calling such a division of land a “terrible idea.”

“I’m fearful of the unintended consequences of a denial,” he said.

Several Eagle board members Tuesday night said Gypsum has offered Costco a $5-million incentive package, and an audience member, after receiving a cell phone call from an unnamed source, claimed she had just learned that Costco had signed a deal to go to Gypsum.

But Gypsum town manager Jeff Shroll has consistently denied that claim.

“We’ve contacted (Costco), we’ve had some discussions with them, but we don’t have anything,” he said. “We’ve certainly never talked dollars, money, or details.”

A $5-million incentive package would have to be decided at a public meeting of Gypsum’s town council, he said.

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