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An independent Edwards

Don Rogers

A majority of residents in this midvalley hub prefer to remain an unincorporated part of the county, according to this year’s telephone survey.

The main advantage of this, of course, is lower taxes. The costs are more subtle.

Governance of this area that as little as 15 years ago was envisioned as little more than the Gashouse, mobile homes and fields now is a patchwork of special districts and the county.

The county, perhaps to a fault, works hard to serve this area. But inevitably the county brings the interests of the entire county to bear in decisions for Edwards. Residents squawk, but they don’t really have much standing to do so. Seems they want their lower taxes and a bigger voice, too.

Those who felt disenfranchised with the decisions to put a college campus, affordable housing and recreation fields on most of the Berry Creek 5th parcel, for example, might have had more influence if the area were part of a city of Edwards. Traffic and development decisions might look different, as well, with a municipal council’s eye squarely on the immediate community calling the shots in place of a three-member commission looking out for the interests of the county as a whole.

The question here is that familiar cost-value determination. Clearly, paying less out of pocket is still worth the relative privations of having a lesser voice in your community’s bigger decisions. The good folks given to complaining about the commissioners’ decisions for the Edwards area might give give this incorporation more thought.

Yes, it’s a trade-off betting more tax dollars in exchange for a greater hand in shaping the community they live in. Fairly simple equation here.

But this does not quite answer the larger question of whether the quality of life in Edwards would be greater as its own municipality.

The towns in the Vail Valley – Vail, Minturn, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum – each have their own distinctive character. Avon, as the closest to Edwards, would seem to offer the best comparison for a Tale of Two Communities exploration.

But it might be a little misleading to draw too many conclusions from Avon if Edwards were to incorporate. Vail and Minturn, and Gypsum and Eagle, are close in distance but in other ways quite different from their most immediate neighbors. Much rests on the people who would serve in a town’s elected and hired leadership positions, in addition to each community’s level of civic participation.

Still, one telling difference between county and truly local oversight of a community lies in the scope of vision of the leaders, for better and for worse. A municipality would tend to view decisions and challenges narrowly, tending toward provincially, and a county has a wider focus, which can leave residents feeling a bit overlooked.

Eagle County shows every indication of trying to keep residents’ wishes in line with decisions. But county officials have a wider mission than this one community. It stretches credulity to expect the county government to fix its vision squarely and solely on Edwards.

The ready critics of county decisions for Edwards who at the same time decry the idea of incorporation are unlikely to admit the ultimate illogic of this position.

We’ll condense the message for them: There is a good reason for municipalities. They don’t exist merely to fleece you of more tax money.

Edwards is just beginning to consider this question of incorporation, judging by the thus far halting conversation. That there is a discussion at all speaks volumes as the disparate subdivisions start to coalesce toward a community.

D.R.


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