The 1.16-acre owner located just north of U.S. Highway 6 in Edwards received unanimous approval from the Eagle County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to consolidate his previously subdivided property into a single lot. This was accomplished through the approval of an A minor subdivision process, which corrected the illegal subdivision of the property that took place in 1988.
Securing the commissioners’ approval on the matter was a necessary step for Edwards resident Ross Blankenship, owner of JLT Valley, to start developing the property, where he said he planned to build a resort electric charging stations, a tire store and a car wash.
“We are providing the opportunity for our beloved county to be part of the first-ever new kind of auto service center: a service center without gas, oil, or old-school industry,” said Blankenship. “The new school industry we are building for our county is electric.”
Blankenship enthusiastically outlined their vision for the property, outlining how all services will be designed with a focus on sustainability.
“The building will be powered by solar energy, clean recycled car washes, and hybrid and electric vehicle charging stations to help fuel the future of the auto industry and the future of America,” said said Blankenship. “This Sub-A Minor Type Approval will give us the opportunity to show the county what has never been done before.”
In the days leading up to the decision, county commissioners received 17 public comments expressing concerns from a number of community members about the continuation of Blankenship’s stated plans for the property. The most common objections revolved around the argument that the proposed commercial enterprise does not meet the objectives of the Eagle County Comprehensive Plan and the Edwards Area Community Plan, which recommend mixed-use developments for future land use designations.
Edwards resident Teri Lester spoke at the meeting to encourage commissioners to reject the motion.
“This proposal … squanders the last opportunity to place workforce housing in close proximity to jobs, services, public transportation, open spaces and commercial entities,” Lester said. “That’s why the Edwards community identified this area, because they thought it was perfect for it.”
Other written and voiced comments included concerns about the compatibility of the new venture with the surrounding land use, particularly its proximity to the Eagle River Reservation, and the impact that the presence of a Auto service just off Hwy 6 would affect traffic and road safety.
While acknowledging these concerns about the potential uses of the property, the commissioners all emphasized that the decision before them to approve or deny a Minor Subdivision A had nothing to do with the future use of the land. They made it clear that approving the motion did not signify support or opposition to the proposed use of the land, but was a necessary step to bring the land back into good legal standing.
“The county wants things to be legal, so in that sense, with respect to this subdivision, the sole liability of the owner is not for the use or whether that liability remains with the property – we don’t want this responsibility there,” Commissioner Matt Scherr said. “So the owner’s responsibility, before allowing anything else, is to make it legal. That’s what’s happening here.
Addressing concerns that the new development is not mixed-use or helping to meet workforce housing goals, Eagle County Senior Planner Katie Kent clarified that the county zoning map designates the parcel for general commercial use consistent with Blankenship’s plans.
“When mixed use is talked about by the public, it’s in the Eagle County sub-area plan. It’s a plan we’re looking at, it’s a recommendation, we certainly don’t ignore it, but it’s not a requirement,” Kent said. “The zoning map for permitted uses is what we need to look at, so housing is recommended, it’s not required.”
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney also made a distinction between county priorities and those of private landowners, saying that for the county to have the right to impose its will on a property, it would have to purchase it. As the land is on land zoned for general commercial use, the landowner is permitted to develop a commercial business on this land.
“This is not an opportunity for the public to say ‘this is the best use for this property,’ nor is this where we can impose our priorities,” McQueeney said. “It’s important to recognize that just because we have a priority for housing, and we have a priority for open space, doesn’t mean we can impose that priority on every landowner when they come before us. We must stick to these standards.
Blankenship will need to receive plenty of additional permits and approvals before its dream of building the world’s first all-electric car service shop becomes a reality, but receiving consent from the commissioners on Tuesday brought it one step closer to achieving it.