Let’s close open-space loophole | VailDaily.com

Let’s close open-space loophole

Chris Mech
Vail, CO, Colorado

With regard to the Eagle County open-space initiative, it’s clear that the deciders, including the county commissioners, don’t hear their constituents.

Their next purchase, like most of the prior ones, offers no public access. How many people who voted for this tax were aware that they wouldn’t get to enjoy the protected land, except in some abstract fashion or by using Google Earth?

They’ve now spent tens of millions of our tax dollars, yet I’d love to hear even one story about someone who took a nice hike or caught a big fish on one of these parcels. Anyone?

Instead, you have the likes of the Bair family or (former county commissioner) Gates family living in cloistered bliss on land we paid to preserve, but will never be able to see. In the case of Bair Ranch, you can only see it by booking a guided trophy elk hunt!

I propose a simple change to the wording of the statute that would put public access at the top of the list of criteria instead of near the bottom, as it is now. Had this been set as a priority at the outset, we’d probably have some beautiful, useful parcels by now rather than thousands of acres of scrubland closer to Meeker than the population bases of the Eagle Valley.

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Remember, also, that we’ve been paying full market value (perhaps more, in the case of the Gates Ranch) for less than fee simple title. Seems like the favored “conservation easement” should cost less than full market value, since it allows the continued occupation by the owner. This represents a bailout of the wealthy ranch owner at the expense of the common homeowner.

I’d love to hear input from a local legal expert on the efficacy of my proposal. Considering the current economic conditions, I think we’re long overdue for some bang for our buck. If a referendum is the proper route, let’s do it.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and loads of county residents have been sneaking down to fish on the doughnut shaped, 7-acre parcel which envelopes the town of Basalt sewage treatment plant ($1.75 mil, Grange Ranch purchase). Otherwise, let’s bring some fiscal sobriety to these drunken sailors!

End this taxation without recreation.

Chris Mech


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