Big boxes bust Western charm
The problem with the Vail Valley never having any smalltown character is that hardly anyone who lives here now is actually from a small town.Most of the folks who have transplanted themselves to the Vail Valley are from cities. They came here first to get away from that mindset, but in the process brought it with them. Just when they thought they had escaped, they realized they lived in a rural area and began to secretly miss their suburban roots. Not having six places to shop for virtually the same thing kind gets to folks who are used to driving an extra 20 minutes to save $2 on toilet paper.The reason that “smalltown character” doesn’t appeal to big box proponents is that suburbs don’t afford any real community. Suburbs are a place where city workers live, providing a safe place for themto ignore their children. Commuting to work is part of their day. Without it, they don’t have enough time to think of reasons to be angry.Holy cow! How could we ever survive without not just one big box store, but a choice of big box-injected plastic merchants? What would we fill our landfills with but the throwaway consumables bought at the bulky big box?The real shame of the situation is that with all the big-box mania, sales tax grabbing and annexing going on now will eventually fail. The Midwest is a great example. Those who come from small towns know that their economies are fragile, not able to withstand several big box stores in town. There simply aren’t enough people to support big box stores in this valley. Sure, one will make great profits, but three will be too much, leaving one out in the cold. Abandoned.Baby boomer second-home owners, the ones who are healthy enough, will undoubtedly roost in their winter homes more and more. This will support the big boxes for awhile, until they no longer need to buy plastic toys for their grandchildren. By then, this valley will be so polarized between the haves and have-nots, big boxes will be the bastions of the lower class, no longer appealing to those fortunate enough to have cashed in on most of their Social Security checks.Another sad fact is that town leaders are star-struck by the sales tax numbers these big boxes may bring. Here’s a clue: Start saving now and don’t count your chicks before they hatch; one of those big boxes will rise and fall before the valley is fully built out. Sure, new ball fields and recreation centers are great, but be fiscally responsible and pay them off before you’ve got a 60,000-square-foot empty building. The bean counters at corporate won’t think twice about closing down a failing store, leaving it an empty tax write-off rather than supporting the town they suckered into providing infrastructure.Without a 12-plex movie theater and a shopping mall (just like the ones they used to frequent as teenagers and “hated” because it was the only place to hang out), it doesn’t feel like home any more. What a pity. Move back to the suburbs if you don’t like the country. Leave the open spaces to those who appreciate them. Don’t pollute the landscape with parking lots and chain stores. Yes, progress is inevitable, but we don’t have to cut our noses off to spite our faces.Strip malls, big boxes and fast-food joints don’t belong here. Ask yourself if you want to live in a place where cheap groceries trump nature’s glory.While it’s true that the urbanization of Eagle County is continuing at a breakneck pace, there’s still hope. By curbing the urge to develop every square inch of buildable land, we can at least preserve the landscape. Never mind the luxury SUVs, gated communities full of fourth homes and traffic that come with city folk who would be lost without their cell phones and the cheapest possible products available. The spirit of the West is quickly waning here in Eagle County. The city’s profiteers have discovered the valley’s splendor and are chomping at the bit to capitalize. Enjoy it before another trust funder from the East Coast cuts you off in the roundabout.Web editor Austin Richardson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14311, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado
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