Vail Daily letter: Good land-use planning is critical to reduce emissions
“While some may say that we can’t afford a clean-energy future, economic and environmental trends suggest the opposite — we can’t afford not to invest in these opportunities that benefit both our economy and our environment.”
Those were the words of our Eagle County Commissioners in last week’s Valley Voices column. I agree with them 100 percent.
I want to thank them for standing up and holding themselves accountable for setting targets and goals that will bring about a reduction of greenhouse gasses in Eagle County. We might not be getting the leadership from Washington, D.C., on this issue, but local leaders throughout the United States, and right here in Eagle County, are taking up the task.
I’ve been working in the clean-energy renewables area for more than two decades, and the gains in efficiency and effectiveness during that time are truly remarkable. But there’s something these technologies can’t offset, replace or counter balance, and that’s good land-use planning.
It’s the planning failures in our urban and suburban areas, and even right here in the Roaring Fork Valley, that have brought us sprawl. It’s sprawl and the need to have cars to navigate these far reaches that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The second leading generator of greenhouse gases in the Roaring Fork Valley is cars. We all know this. We all say we want to limit greenhouse gases — but how?
The how has been known for a decade or so. The how is transit-oriented development that ties transportation to living. We’re seeing this play out firsthand in Colorado with the building of mixed-use development along the RTD in Denver. These transit-oriented developments put people within an easy walk (typically a quarter mile or less) of good transportation.
The Roaring Fork Valley has an opportunity to get back to good land-use planning. We have a model transit system in RFTA that makes transit-oriented development almost a “no brainer.” We need to be encouraging this “model” land-use practice and clearing the way for more of these projects to be brought forward.
Growth is coming to our valley. How we manage and direct that growth is critical. How we share our resources is the challenge. It seems to me that transit-oriented developments offer us the best model for directing growth, sharing resources and reaching our greenhouse gas-reduction goals.