Letters to the editor
December 9, 2003
Pressures to come
Last Wednesday evening the Northwest Council of Governments, in conjunction with the Colorado state demographer, gave a startling presentation of the future of Eagle County to about 100 concerned citizens. Let me tell you, they did not paint a rosy picture.
To cover the magnitude of the changes facing us would take more space than this letter can handle. However, here are a few salient points I would like to pass along. (For a more in depth look at the data go to http://www.nwc.cog.co.us/)
Over the past 20 years, skier visits have experienced minimal growth, and yet, in apparent contradiction, our valley has seen phenomenal expansion. Over the next 20 years, this expansion will continue.
The Baby Boomers, 80 million strong, are either retiring or buying second homes. A significant percentage of them are looking at our valley with covetous eyes.
Let’s face it. We like it here. Why wouldn’t they?
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Currently in Eagle County only 51 percent of all dwelling units are owned by full time residents. Of those, 60 percent are owned by people earning about $60,000 per year (our local middle class). These locals are also aging and will soon join the retirement community. What this means is that we are moving toward a time when the majority of the population in Eagle County will be wealthy non-working retirees.
The sticky issue is that these new people will still need to have their lawns mowed, their fingernails polished, their trash picked up and a hundred other services required by an affluent community.
So where will these service workers live? The current projections for 2025 call for a county population of 85,0000 (now 44,000), which generates a job base of something like 93,000. The problem is that a remarkable 36,000 will have to commute from outside of the county because they won’t be able to afford housing.
But where will they come from? Garfield County doesn’t want to house them; they have their hands full of displaced Aspen workers. Summit County has their own housing issues. Highway 24 to Leadville could never handle 36,000 commuters.
If you think our population is polarized between the rich and poor now, just wait. If you think we have traffic now, just wait. If you think we have lost contact with the mountain environment now, just wait. No one is to blame.
These are blind forces of demographic shifting. The state demographer said that it is up to us. We can just let this happen or we can plan for and control it. It is critical that we have strong leadership that recognizes this new reality.
We need to put a cap on upzoning, and, where possible, consider downzoning. We need to promote new high-paying jobs, not more service sector job. We need to explore more affordable housing options. We need to be aware of this very complex problem.
Our one biggest sin would be to ignore it, hoping that it will go away. It won’t. Look at the numbers.
As a Hispanic American, I have to take issue with Angela Trujillo’s letter “Liberal media? Yeah right!”
Apparently Ms. Trujillo has chosen to forget the events of 9/11 and why the Patriot Act came about. If the media were as conservative as Ms. Trujillo claims, why on earth haven’t we been told of the American family that was kidnapped by the Mexican military that violated our laws when they entered into American soil and abducted an American family? And why doesn’t the conservative media tell the truth of how much illegal immigration really costs the American taxpayers and the truth of how many illegal aliens are really in the U.S.?
If anyone is racist, Angela Trujillo should take a real hard look in the mirror. The word “illegal” is color blind. Americans are taking their country back and I think that is what is bothering Angela Trujillo!