The property owner of 1.16 acres 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 one lot. This was accomplished through approval of a Minor A Subdivision process, which corrected the illegal subdivision of the property that took place in 1988.
Acquiring the commissioners’ approval on this point was a necessary step for Edwards resident Ross Blankenship, owner of JLT Valley and Action Jackson Auto, to begin developing the property, where he said he plans to build an electric recharge station, tire store and car wash.
“We’re bringing the opportunity for our beloved county to be part of the first ever new type of auto care center: an auto care center without gas, oil, or the old school industry,” Blankenship said. “The new school industry we’re building for our county is electric.”
Blankenship enthusiastically described his vision for the property, emphasizing how all services will be designed with a focus on sustainability.
“The building will be served by solar power, clean recycled car washes, and hybrid and EV vehicle charging stations to help power the future of the automotive industry and the future of America,” Blankenship said. “This sub-plat Minor A 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 that voiced a number of community members’ concerns about moving forward with Blankenship’s stated plans for the property. The most common objections revolved around the argument that the proposed commercial business does not meet the goals 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 the commissioners to reject the motion.
“This proposal … squanders the last opportunity to place workforce housing within the immediate proximity to jobs, services, mass transit, open space and commercial entities,” Lester said. “This is why the Edwards community identified this area, because they thought it was perfect for this.”
Other written and voiced comments included concerns about the new business’s compatibility with surrounding land use, particularly its close proximity to the Eagle River Preserve, and about the impact that having an auto care center right off of Highway 6 would have on traffic and road safety.
While acknowledging these concerns about the property’s potential uses, the commissioners all emphasized that the decision put before them to approve or deny a Minor A Subdivision had nothing to do with the future use of the land. They made it clear that approving the motion did not signal support or opposition to the proposed use of the land, but was a necessary step to bring the plot back into good legal standing.
“The county wants things to be legal, so in that sense, as far as this subdivision goes, the owner’s sole responsibility isn’t anything about use or having that liability stay with the property — we don’t want that liability there,” said commissioner Matt Scherr. “So the owner’s responsibility, before we allow anything else, is to make it legal. That’s what’s happening here.”
In addressing the concerns about the new development not being mixed-use or helping to meet workforce housing goals, Eagle County Senior Planner Katie Kent clarified that the county zoning map designates the plot for commercial general use that is compatible with Blankenship’s plans.
“When mixed-use is being brought up by the public, it is in the sub area plan for Eagle County. That is a plan that we look at, it’s a recommendation, we definitely do not ignore it, but it’s not a requirement,” Kent said. “The zoning map for uses permitted are what we are required to look at, so housing is recommended, it is not required.”
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney also made a distinction between the county’s priorities and those of private landowners, saying that in order for the county to have the right to impose its will on a property, it would have to purchase it. Since the plot is on land that is zoned for commercial general use, the landowner is allowed to develop a commercial business on that land.
“This is not an opportunity for the public to say ‘this is the best use for this piece of property,’ it’s not where we get to impose our priorities either,” 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 that we get to impose that priority on every landowner when they come before us. We have to stick to these standards.”
Blankenship will have to receive numerous additional permits and approvals before his dream of building the first all-electric auto care shop becomes a reality, but receiving the commissioners’ consent on Tuesday brought him one step closer to making it a reality.