Eagle enters final stretch of recode process to update town’s land use and development standards

Creating mixed-use districts is the main way that Eagle’s record of its land use and development standards is making space for more housing solutions. For example, Grand Avenue had previously only been zoned for commercial use. Under a mixed-use district established through the recode, buildings will be able to have commercial businesses on the ground floor and apartments can go up top.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily

Eagle’s land use and development code was originally established in 1976. Since then, the town has grown exponentially — and certain aspects of the existing code are no longer representative of Eagle’s character and goals. On April 17, a public draft of the recode will be released and, in June, the recode will be submitted for approval by the Town Council which aims for more efficiency and alignment with Eagle today.

Chad Phillips, Eagle’s community development director, said that since 1976 slight changes have been made to the town’s land use and development code. However, about four years ago, he said the town kicked off the process of completely revising the antiquated code. Phillips said by the time he joined the town staff, the recode was already in the works.

While existing residences and establishments will be allowed to continue to operate as is under a legal non-conforming status following the recode, Phillips said zoning changes that come with the recode are intended to address Eagle’s current goals for development. Of these goals, making space for more affordable housing opportunities remains a priority within the record.

On March 17, Eagle released its Comprehensive Affordable Housing Assessment. The report, completed by Economic & Planning Systems, a business management consulting firm based in Denver, provides data on the local housing market, and economic and demographic trends. The assessment helped inform decisions within the town’s recode to address the lack of affordable housing.

Creating mixed-use districts is the main way the recode is making space for more housing solutions. For example, Grand Avenue had previously only been zoned for commercial use. Under a mixed-use district established through the recode, buildings will be able to have commercial businesses on the ground floor and apartments can go up above.

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“So, we’re trying to have new housing in areas where the existing code would not allow,” Phillips said.

One challenge Phillips outlined with rezoning districts for mixed-use that previously weren’t set up for housing was figuring out parking requirements. Higher density requires more parking, Phillips said. Recode coordinators are considering methods that can soften the blow for future developers who will be required to implement more parking accommodations.

“We know that if we waived or drastically reduced our parking standards, especially around Broadway it may be OK for a couple of years, but as we get more of these mixed-use buildings coming in, there is a problem on the horizon, yes ,” Phillips said. “We just need to know how to best deal with that now.”

This chart outlines the major land use and development changes outlined by Eagle’s recode. As presented by urban planning and land use consulting firm, Clarion Associates, the chart also shows what was informed or prompted the proposed changes.
Clarion Associates/Courtesy photo

Something that the recode will drastically change, Phillips said, is the process of approving zoning developments. Under the original land use and development code, it is outlined that each special use permit must go to the Town Council for approval.

“That’s the way things were done in the ’70s,” Phillips said. “Agendas were lighter and big projects didn’t come up that often — the council wanted to see everything. Nowadays, you know, we’re all busy. Council doesn’t want to see everything.”

So, the recode will make this process quicker and more simplified, Phillips said. Following the recode, Phillips or the Planning and Zoning Commission can make land use decisions based on the more solidified land use requirements detailed in the recode.

“In the existing code, there are words in there like ‘should,’ or ‘strongly encourage,’” Phillips said. “I mean, how do I enforce that? So, we’re just trying to get rid of that stuff. Let’s put our feet down and make things less objective.”

With the Town Council’s approval of the recode, the clearly-written definitions and standards in the new code will be approved so that every land use decision won’t need to make its way before the council for sanctions.

Phillips said in most cases, this update process will stop the typical length of time it takes for a special use permit to be approved. However, in certain circumstances, approval may be pushed up to the Town Council, Phillips said, as there may be extra community concerns or extenuating circumstances that would require more eyes on the approval process.

Additionally, Phillips noted that the new iteration of the town’s land use and development code will act more as a living document than its predecessors. Housekeeping changes will be required for the code to reflect Eagle as it evolves, Phillips said.

“I told the council, ‘Hey, as soon as we get done with this monster project, maintenance begins immediately,’” Phillips said.

The third major goal that the recode aims to tackle is to hone in on Eagle’s character. To guide that process, recode coordinators referenced the Elevate Eagle comprehensive plan. According to the town of Eagle website, Elevate Eagle “is a long-range policy document that sets a vision for the community, providing guidance for conservation, growth and development” intended to help evaluate land use applications.

“When we did our Elevate Eagle process, the community told us overwhelmingly (to) maintain or enhance our community character,” Phillips said. “But we didn’t follow up with the question, ‘What does that mean, to define our character?”

Phillips said the recode attempts to solidify that character through its design standards. He said recode coordinators were able to make informed decisions about building materials and landscaping — elements that contribute to the town’s vibe.

Clarion Associates, an urban planning and land use consulting firm based out of Denver was hired by Eagle to assist with the recode. Additionally, a Land Use Code Update Committee has been established and meets monthly to move the record along.

Phillips also said the community has been welcome to engage in the record as well. He said he hopes the record is something that represents the community’s vision. However, Phillips noted that the issue isn’t one that has seemed to ignite individuals.

“There really isn’t a planned use topic that’s going to get the public up in arms, you know,” Phillips said.

Despite the lack of ferocity among the public regarding the recode, Phillips said the community will continue to be engaged as the recode process approaches approval. Phillips said the recode is set for adoption by Eagle Town Council on June 27, following the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation for approval — which is currently scheduled for June 6.

“So basically, between now and June 6 is our last big push for public outreach,” Phillips said.

Over the next month and a half, the Land Use Code Update Committee, Clarion Associates and Planning and Zoning representatives will hold three Coffee & a Convo outreach events around town. There, recode representatives will share information visually as well as answer community questions and talk to people about land use.

The first Coffee & a Convo regarding the recode will take place at Stout House on April 19 at 9 am Another will be held at Yeti’s Grind on May 3, and another at Color Coffee Roasters on May 10, both also at 9 am

Additionally, Phillips said that the recode project coordinators will be attending meetings throughout the community to discuss the recode and answer questions in those spaces. Phillips said any group that wants them to present on the recode and open up a discussion can request attendance.

“We’ll show up,” Phillips said. “Right now, we’re (going) with the Downtown Development Authority, the Economic Vitality Committee, the Eagle Chamber — they’re all meeting and we’re on the agenda. So, we’ll talk about the key changes, how it’s going to improve, the experience and hopefully the physical features of the town.”

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