Letter: Don’t give Berlaimont developers a pass
To the Eagle County Commissioners and Governor Polis: The Forest service analysis and proposed action selecting Alternative 3 is nothing more than giving the developers whatever they want to make their proposed development as profitable as possible and their expenses as low as possible. Alternative 3 does this by using additional public land to provide less-costly access to an undefined group of potential 35 acre lots. This leaves the land pristine for developers, increasing both their acreage and the value of that acreage. This makes that land far more valuable because most of the access is provided by building all the road platforms, retaining walls and a couple million yards of excavation on public land.
As well as the access road, Alternative 3 heads up into the public land in the public interior of this horseshoe-shaped parcel. Alternative 3 puts the locked-access gate quite a distance from the actual private property – in effect privatizing much of the public land beyond the gate and completing the road on public land up to private property. Alternative 2, which provides the access that the Forest Service claims is required, disturbs less land than Alternative 3. It uses the developers’ own property for access. While the retaining walls are higher, the deer and elk of the mountains are not found in piles at the bottom of cliffs and rock bands. They do suffer from collisions on roads, especially after dark, that have re-vegetated and landscaped road banks, which Alternative 3 creates.
The erosion potential of a road on private land is not regulated by the Forest Service. Eagle County, the State of Colorado and the US Army Corps of Engineers can do their jobs regulating this issue on private land and public streams. As well, we all have to look up at Cordillera’s ridgetop development and many other unattractive developments on private property. The Forest Service is very selective on when they choose to worry about private property.
The existing Forest Prescription for this area is Wildlife winter range. We all love the public lands that surround us and it is the home and habitat for most of our wildlife. When the Forest Supervisor says that his job is to do all he can to protect our declining herds, I have to wonder what he is talking about. This NEPA analysis chooses at every decision point to favor the developer, reduce his costs and increase the disturbance to public land, at the expense of public land and wildlife.
When I worked as a mountain planner for Vail Associates, the White River Forest Landscape Architect explained that if you followed the NEPA process carefully, appeals were seldom successful, even for bad proposals. This seems to be the approach taken here. Alternative 3 in no way represents the public interest.
I call on the Eagle County Commissioners and Governor Polis to tell the Forest Service they do not support Alternative 3. Waiting until this is approved and comes before Eagle County is too late. This will be appealed and most likely litigated. Our elected public officials can prevent this if they act now.
At least one boulder will need to be blasted as part of the cleanup effort.