Valley Voices: Will Eagle’s boom bust?
Vail CO, Colorado
The town of Eagle can be considered a metaphor for boom towns in America. It is a small town of 5,000 people that grew by 100 percent in the last five years. My wife and two children are one of those families that decided to move downvalley from the resorts area for a more laid-back, rural sort of lifestyle.
Shortly afterwards, I started to realize that the land-use planning and infrastructure for the town was not able to keep up with fast pace growth. A former town trustee told me, “we had no idea that the growth would come so fast and that we didn’t prepared for it.” Now, the town is attempting to plan for your typical large shopping mall with housing and an interchange to try and find new sales tax dollars to pay for its infrastructure needs.
It is the, “we grew so fast, we need to grow more, to keep up with the growing” land-use pattern of the last few decades. In return, we lose small-town character, get more shopping that we don’t need, crime increases and so do urban needs. Thankfully, some in the real estate and development community feel vindicated. And, peoples’ fears that if we aren’t growing we’re dying feel cured. The only thing that really likes to grow more than boom towns is cancer cells. It is what the economist John Kenneth Galbreth called “irrational exuberance” of economic behavior.
We are now embarking on the boom-and-bust town cycle of the Gold Rush era in the late 1800s. Despite all the national data on retailers showing they are failing, bond lending drying up and never enough employees in a valley to fill the service-sector jobs, we still think we are different and can be successful.
How should a boom town determine success? Should it evaluate its loss of night sky? By being able to walk into cafes and shops and knowing the owners and their children? By having to lock your car door when you run into the bank or post office?
This is our town. This is not new, this is old, seen it before, why repeat the same mistake as everyone else?
One of the first times I came to this town 15 years ago, I thought God, this is a small town, who lives here? Now, I know. I do.
Arn Menconi is an Eagle County commissioner and as Eagle resident. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.