Tale of two towns | VailDaily.com

Tale of two towns

Steve Pope

A few days ago I was returning to Eagle County Regional Airport from Washington, D.C. The flight path took the plane on a path along the Eagle River and as I looked out the window, I was reminded how pretty the view is, even with all of the development some of us find objectionable. The plane was flying at a low altitude on our final approach into Eagle, and I was able to clearly see both the confluence plot of land that is proposed for development in Avon and the gravel pit that is proposed for protection near the Eaton Ranch in Edwards. Something was nagging at me as we continued on to our landing in Eagle, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was concerning me.On the drive home I took a detour to look at both pieces of land. I was stuck by the similarity between them. Both are near the river. Both have been the site of development. The Avon parcel used to be a trailer park, so it is nearly flat. The Edwards parcel is still a gravel pit and is equally flat. Both are between the railroad tracks and also right next to Highway 6. Both are adjacent to developed towns and both could arguably be either open space or developed to provide amenities to the adjacent town. Both have some scenic value and while I personally think the Avon parcel is prettier, the call is close enough I won’t quibble about it. Both are close to already developed, significantly sized, parkland and both are located in areas where traffic congestion issues are already existence. So where was my angst coming from? Try as I might, I still couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me.Early the next morning, listening to the birds sing as the sun rose above the hills, it came to me. The irony was almost overwhelming. The only real difference in the parcels is that that one in Avon is being developed for tourists, and the one in Edwards is in the process of being protected from development that would provide homes and services for the folks who work in the valley and take care of the tourists that the Avon development will bring. At the end of the day, it seems that as a valley we are more willing to allow development for additional guests than we are willing to allow development for the working folks who want to live in the valley. This is all the more ironic in light of two Democratic county commissioners, ostensibly protectors of the common man and the working class, who oppose development of Edwards but have not objected to the Avon project. Our Republican commissioner has gone on record as opposing the use of county funds to protect the gravel pit from development. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not objecting to the Avon development. I strongly support the proposed plan. It meets the test that should be applied to any piece of property before development is approved. As noted before, it is in the middle of already existing development. It is close to the highway, and it is really flat. As a county, we should push all of our development to these “in-fill” spots so that we can protect the unspoiled land that surrounds us and gives us the beautiful views we all enjoy. We need some development, and it is much wiser to locate on in-fill land than it is to push the development up the sides of our mountains and into the beautiful valleys our creeks flow from.The irony is that the Edwards parcel should be developed for exactly the same reasons. Concentrating development is the only realistic way we can protect the hillsides and hidden valleys. Spending $6 million of county money to help buy essentially a gravel pit for $12 million is not logical. I would use the word boondoggle, but that does not really convey the danger and fallacy that the gravel pit purchase represents. Let’s stop this insanity before it is too late. Before we spend this money and force growth to places we and our children will all regret, let’s ask the citizens what they think. Put it on the ballot this fall. If we all vote to spend the money, I will gladly shut up about the issue. If we don’t vote to spend the money on a gravel pit, maybe we can use it to protect open land that really deserves to be protected. Publisher Steve Pope can be reached at 949-0555, 300, or publisher@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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