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Jobs to outstrip lower-end housing in Eagle County


Compiled by Allen Best

EAGLE VALLEY, Colo. — Highways in and out of Eagle County will creak and groan in coming years with what demographers say will be ever-heavier commuting patterns. Some 36,000 people will be commuting into the county by 2025, or about four-fifths as many people as now live in the county.

With Vail and Aspen as the seeds, Eagle County was the 10 th fastest growing county in the nation during the 1990s. Although growing more slowly during the last several years, that slow growth won’t last, says Jim Weskott, Colorado’s state demographer. The communities along Interstate 70 are expected to fill with retiring baby boomers, a trend that has already occurred. The high demand for real estate will make it "very difficult for workers to live here," predicts Weskott.

Leadville, an existing bedroom community, is expected to become even more of a bedroom. Also expected to fill with commuting workers are Silt, New Castle, and Rifle, which are communities west along I-70.

While there has been no backlash to the projections, some public officials are asking about the impacts of commuting – on highways, the environment, and the outlying communities themselves.

"We need to get a clear understanding of our unintended consequences of growth," warns Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi.

It’s not just skiing, of course. Statistics show that both commercial development and population during the 1990s grew more rapidly than the ski industry in Summit County, which is adjacent to Eagle County.

Is all of this inevitable? Weskott suggests some growth pressures are inevitable, but local governments have choices in how they respond – whether, for example, they insist on employee housing as a complement to high-end housing. The Eagle County commissioners earlier this year rejected that notion after a seven-year study.

Developer strikes deal with environmentalists

NORTHSTAR, Calif. — East West Partners, the Colorado-based development company planning work at Northstar ski resort, has worked out a deal with a local environmental group, Sierra Watch, to ensure preservation of open space in the Martis Valley. The valley is located between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

East West will impose a half-per cent transfer fee on all real estate sales in the Northstar Village for the next 20 years, generating a projected $5 million. For its part, Sierra Watch won't contest the redevelopment of Northstar Village, which includes more than 200 residential units, 100,000 square-feet of commercial space, a conference center, spa and ice rink.

Still uncertain is the approval by Placer County authorities for the development of the Martis Valley. Sierra Watch had vowed to sue in an attempt to block the revised community plan that would allow up to 6,000 homes. The group prefers only half as many homes. Roger Lessman, managing partner for East West Partners in Truckee, said development by his company would occur among trees, not on the valley floor.