Greedy, greedy valley |

Greedy, greedy valley

Slamming the brakes on development in the Vail Valley will bring back the old days ” sheep pastures, wooden skis, residents riding their horses to the Red Lion, a wilderness in West Vail.

OK ” maybe freezing construction of new homes and shopping malls will at least bring back the ’70s: no snowboarders, no noisy interstate, no Beaver Creek, no Vail Daily, no confusing roundabouts, no lines of skiers’ cars on the Frontage Road or Highway 6.

Surely it could bring back the early 1990s, before there was a wildly popular Blue Sky Basin or a busy Riverwalk or an Outback Steakhouse, where one sometimes has to wait for a table.

2002? No crowded Wal-Mart, no lines at Home Depot, no fancy bowling alleys in Eagle, no Marble Slabs, no affordable homes in Edwards or affordable apartments across the highway from Vail Village and one or two double-chairs on the mountains.

Oh remember good old January, 2005? When there weren’t plans for a discount liquor store or a third Marble Slab ice cream shop or a third high school or a private ski resort in the woods between Minturn and Red Cliff?

Well, at least our elected leaders saved us from the dreaded convenience of Costco and a few extra inches of height at Crossroads ” thanks to the staunch preservationists on the Vail Town Council, getting drunk and spending hundreds of dollars on dinner are still the only things to do at night in Vail Village. Meanwhile, thanks to the same council, time-shares are spreading like pine beetles.

What, exactly, is the point of the building freeze proposed by county commissioners Arn Menconi and Peter Runyon? At the same time they’re having nightmare visions of suburban Denver creeping over Vail Pass on a widened I-70, they’re hanging onto to an idea of a ski town that hasn’t existed for a couple of decades.

That idea was doomed the instant Vail decided it wanted to be the No. 1 ski resort in North America. That vision of a quaint and quiet resort town ” which is even now in its death throes in holdout Crested Butte ” got even dimmer when merchants, hungry for more and more profits, decided Vail should be crowded with free-spending tourists not only in the summer but also in the off-seasons.

What’s wrong with an off-season or two? The problem is only real estate agents are making lots of money in the off-season. Empty land ” such as the mountains between Minturn and Red Cliff ” causes the same distress: Screw the quiet, screw the wilderness, there’s money to made!

I guess that’s not really a distressing decision for either the Florida developer, the councilman who gets $6 million for his lodge or the reporter who gets snapped up to do public relations for the company.

These aren’t troubling choices because money has always been a much more powerful force in Vail and its suburbs than the desire for a sleepy ski town where everybody has gotten drunk with each other.

Greed, though most valleyites would be offended to be accused of such a money-mongering impulse, is as invigorating as a powder day, a bike ride or a long hike. And what drives greed ” desire. Our desire: For more golf courses, for faster ski lifts and more acres of slopes, for convenient shopping, for the value of our homes to continue to climb.

Nothing’s wrong with greed. I’m thrilled condos in my complex are selling for $100,000 more than what I paid for mine two years ago. During a recent bout of home improvement, I went to Home Depot about eight times in three days and spent hundreds of dollars to make my condo not only more pleasant to live in, but also more valuable.

What’s silly about Arn and Peter’s plan is that it pretends to ignore this dominating greed. Their idea also betrays a greed of its own. Arn and Peter want to close the doors at Vail Pass and Glenwood Canyon, and keep these mountains and trails and streams to themselves.

I guess they don’t want any more help degrading the mountains, a side-effect in which all of us participate just by living here, just by walking into the woods, just by driving our cars and demanding supermarkets with shelves full of food.

A building freeze would not make it easier (i.e., cheaper) for anybody to live here. A building freeze might ease the consciences of self-appointed guardians of the woods like Arn and Peter, but it’s more likely to turn the valley into a giant gated community than a middle class utopia.

There will still be demand ” people will still want badly to move here. Doesn’t that mean homes will be even more expensive if the supply is limited by a misguided law?

Arn and Peter are trying to help people survive in the valley by driving up the price of real estate and cramming even more profits the pockets of those ubiquitous Realtors.

Sounds like something the Bush Administration would think of.

City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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