Bair deal worth taking |

Bair deal worth taking

Don Rogers

Perhaps it’s just a law of political physics – sure as gravity – that any election issue settled by less than 100 votes is doomed to being refought just as soon as it’s put into practice.

That was the case in Vail with the conference center, now inching forward. A loud collection of doubters tried and may yet succeed in killing the project before it breaks dirt. That truly would be a setback for the community.

Now it’s the conservation easement that governments and private donors are buying for Bair Ranch at the east end of Glenwood Canyon. Critics are keen to debate the merits of the open space tax voters approved by a scant 51 votes last year.

As a reminder, the Daily supported the convention center and recommended against the open space tax. We argued that a tight economy precluded adding to the tax load for a relative luxury in a county with over 80 percent of its land already “open space.” And we saw the sense in investing in a project that would help Vail’s businesses, particularly in the shoulder seasons between summers and ski seasons.

But we also recognize smart people with the community’s best interests at heart do not all share our sense of wisdom on these issues. The people have spoken – with more force than the election of the president in November 2000. So let’s move on. Build the conference center and acquire open space, of which there are a fair number of parcels that do fit the public’s interest in preventing the development of yet more subdivisions and gated communities.

Ranchland forms a chunk of the private acreage that qualifies as worthy of preserving as open space. This was no secret during the election campaign, and no surprise now, notwithstanding claims by citizens with rather short memories. Bair Ranch, three years in the negotiating for the easement that two of Eagle County’s three commissioners recently approved contributing $2 million toward, has proved an interesting first test.

The property tax collection that will put about $3 million a year in the county’s new open space fund, won’t start until this coming January. The open space advisory committee has not been appointed yet.

Yet, if the county doesn’t act now, it stands to lose its opportunity to put just 40 percent of the cost of an easement and possibly to keep Craig Bair from giving up on the idea and reaping the monetary riches of possibly developing the land. The county has the funds to take advantage of a relative bargain while providing fair value to the landowner.

Whether sheep or dudes flock the ranch, there is a significant public interest in keeping houses and/or mansions off it. You don’t have to walk the land to know that much. Besides, buying it as a park would cost much, much more.

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