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Letters to the editor

Jay Precourt

(Don Rogers), I respect your views expressed in the Vail Daily on Jan 16. I am swayed considerably, however, by the fact that the 72 acres in Edwards are available now and if not acted upon, would likely never become available for open space. There are not many properties left in our I-70-Eagle River corridor of the quality of the Eaton Ranch, Wolcott or Merv Lapin’s. If Eaton Ranch is acquired in 2005 for open space, it does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of acquiring open space in Wolcott or owned by Merv Lapin at some later date when and if those properties eventually become available. However, a pass today on Eaton Ranch probably is a pass for the century.Jay PrecourtPresident, Board of DirectorsEagle Valley Land TrustAlarmed at amountDon Rogers, I agree 100 percent with your take on Eaton Ranch. I also am alarmed that the county would consider spending $6 million when there is no real plan for the property set forth to the public. Who will develop the space for the citizens? Who will pay for the maintenance on it? What portion will the Vail Valley Foundation “sell off,” per their statements? Who will decide where, when, and how much space will be open to the public? Who, exactly, will hold the easement? What in heaven’s name will they do with the ugly eyesore of the gravel pit? Why had B&B abandoned their once-upon-a-time idea of flooding the pit and making a lake there? I am a citizen of Eagle County, served on the Eagle County Planning and Zoning Commission, served on the Open Space Committee and am currently a board member for the Berry Creek Metro District. I do not support the large expenditure of county (citizens’) funds on this property with all areas being so gray. I think if the county continues to spend all of its open space funds on a single easement, they will never have a pool together for a critical piece of property. If the county uses $3 million of the general fund money for an open space purchase in addition to the open space funds, it is my understanding that the Open Space fund must reimburse them. If I am correct, then the Open Space Committee will not have funds available to be in business again until after that money is paid back to the county, which would put it in 2006 or later. How many really good pieces of land may come up in that time and not be able to be saved? I don’t know. Who would help the foundation with this purchase? The Conservation Trust, the state funds, and the Eagle Valley Land Trust Fund raising, along with the county made the Bair Ranch, at a much larger acreage, purchase possible. Plus the Bairs are financially responsible for maintaining the easement. Have any of these partners from the Bair Ranch effort offered money to assist us in this purchase, and how much have they offered?There are so many unknowns with this purchase, other than the extremely high price, that I would say it is almost buying a pig-in-the-poke. What uses will be allowed on the land, what acreage will remain untrammeled natural habitat, will there be fishing access, will there be bike trails, picnic tables, trash basket overflowing etc, etc. Save the money until there are a lot more answers and not just ideas that “may” take place. A plan for the day after the $6 million transfer takes place would be nice to know before the money is spent.A fellow blasphemer, Sandra DonnellyNever mind detailsI support the Eagle River Preserve project and hope the Vail Daily does, also. Geri SchmidtKeep Eaton open spaceI live in Edwards and want to express my concern over the rampant growth in Eagle County. I have lived in the Vail Valley for over 25 years and watched the growth. It needs to be slowed and watched carefully, as our water and other natural resources continue to be in a delicate balance. I am strongly in favor of using Eagle County tax dollars to support the preservation of the Eagle River Valley, i.e., Eagle River Preserve project, the Eaton Ranch in Edwards. Please support the efforts to maintain this open space.Cindy L. PetrehnEdwardsPlease be prudentDon: After reading your excellent commentary “How much is one view worth?” in (Monday’s) Daily, I am grateful you did not rerun my letter titled “A skeptic” dated Dec. 6, as I had requested. Artfully couching the heresy of NOT automatically supporting a project to stop growth which is purported to be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” as blasphemy, you constructively covered the alternatives which make more sense and provide more bang for the buck: the Eagle “big box land,” Wolcott, and the reapportionment of the Eaton parcels into commercial (developable) and preservation (wet) land are but some of the the better uses of open space funds which provide more bang for the buck, as was also the case with the Bair Ranch. The Eagle County commissioners must not spend funds they do not have, as it forecloses too many attractive future opportunities. I trust they will decide wisely and act prudently. John Eschenlohr Avon Just spend itMy name is Gerard V. Conway. I live in Eagle-Vail and I support the use of $6 million of County funds for the preservation of the Eagle River.Gerard V. ConwayEagle-VailFiscal lemmingsLike the tsunami-driven disaster in Southeast Asia, the first casualty of last November’s election is being felt right here in Eagle County. The first victim, of course, is the taxpayer.Eagle County elected officials are now being asked to support the siren song of “open space” to the tune of $6 million of Eagle County taxpayer money. The fact is we don’t have enough money in the county’s open-space fund. Not for two years. Which means of course the commissioners will have to do a budget amendment (read: deficit spend) in order to reach this outrageous funding request. The best part, of course, is the fact that no one has seen any appraisal of what the Eaton Ranch land is actually worth. HUH? And why bother if you’re the seller? If you can get unbridled political support by simply putting an unjustified price tag on your land, then watch the fiscal lemmings line up to support it, why bother with unnecessary issues like “fair market value”? “Blasphemy,” says the editor of the local paper when he raises his own objections about this cost. Don, who was it you endorsed in the last election? Is Jim Jones still mixing Kool-Aid into your water cooler?No matter! The fiscal lemmings say we must preserve this Edwards land with taxpayer money no matter who gets the taxpayer money. I guess it must be “for the kids,” right? Now is not the time to question cost, only to show our unbridled support for a hurried $6 million decision driven by a deadline imposed against the Vail Valley Foundation, not against the Eagle County taxpayer. Avon Councilwoman Kristi Ferraro (I like Kristi) has publicly weighed in with her support for the full $6 million. Kristi, I have a few questions. When you and husband Craig purchased your Avon home, did you get an appraisal first? Where you and Craig comfortable with the knowledge of fair market value for that property before you wrote your check to purchase it? Are you using one set of fiscal standards when it comes to spending your own personal money and another set when you endorse spending taxpayer money? My intent is not to pick on Kristi. Rather, I would submit the same questions to the other elected officials. Mr. Frampton assures us in his public letter to the taxpayer that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to ensue a legacy of open space.” I think maybe not. The Bair facts suggest otherwise.I have a counter proposal. First, Eagle County doesn’t approve anything. Neither funding, nor zoning change, nor any development plans until we can determine what the actual value of this land is. Second, we need a public debate over funding this land vs. funding other open-space opportunities in the county that the taxpayer can afford (read: no deficit spending).I acknowledge the value and importance of open space in Eagle County, particularly on the valley floor. I don’t acknowledge any elected official who would support a project without first working to get the best deal for the taxpayer. To me, that’s just another lemming.Pete BuckleyAvonFiscal responsibilityMost everyone agrees Open Space is a good thing, which is why many of us voted to establish an Eagle County Open Space fund. As the name implies, these funds are designated to purchase open space. Like all government money, this fund is fueled by additional taxes paid by Eagle County taxpayers. We chose to inflict this tax burden on ourselves.Some are now arguing that this fund is not enough, that another $2-3 million should be spent from the Eagle County General Fund to purchase Eaton Ranch. I remind everyone that we recently wasted $5.2 million to purchase an EASEMENT on commercially developed land; the bulk of which is not even in Eagle County, and land to which Eagle County taxpayers have (at best) “restricted” access. I am of course referring to last year’s Bair Ranch debacle.The Bair Ranch deal included $2 million from the Eagle County Open Space fund and a bonus of $3.2 million in federal funds, all of which could have been used toward the purchase of Eaton Ranch, which is real open space on the valley floor for everyone to access and enjoy. Instead, two of our commissioners blew our collective open space wad on a private dude ranch easement, and now we can’t afford to actually BUY real open space. Such are the ramifications of poor decisions. As adults we must learn to accept responsibility for our actions. However, some still want to have their cake and eat it, too. But where is the accountability? To quote our fortieth president, “Government is like a big baby an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end, and no responsibility at the other.” Purchasing Eaton Ranch as open space is a good idea, but we cannot spend money we do not have, and robbing the General Fund to pay for it is not a viable solution. The current conundrum now confronting our county commissioners is another test of accountability. Will they act responsibly, exercise accountability, and adhere to their own budget? Or will they just soil themselves (again) and expect the taxpayers to clean up the fiscal mess? Buddy ShipleyEdwardsVail, Colorado


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