At River Edge, growth of a different kind |

At River Edge, growth of a different kind

We are disappointed by the recent development approvals for the River Edge Colorado residential project, although we are not surprised.

The Garfield County commissioners have made it abundantly clear that a large part of their focus is on generating jobs for local workers.

It should be noted that this project will not give employment to that many workers – the estimate is 114 jobs at peak construction – and that work on the actual homes themselves is not to begin until 2014.

But another source of our disappointment is that the commissioners chose not to listen to the two existing communities on either side of this project.

The site for this development is almost exactly midway between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, and development has been resisted by those communities for a decade of different project proposals.

In the formal comments on the River Edge proposal, both towns argued that it was inappropriate to create such a dense pocket of unincorporated growth at that particular site. The city of Glenwood Springs termed it an example of unwanted sprawl.

Both town governments submitted comments questioning the need for this kind of a project at this time, when the real estate market is in a slump and no one is sure when it will improve.

But now that the project is approved, we would like to urge the developer to consider putting greater emphasis on a different kind of growth – using as much of the project’s open space as possible for the production of food.

Developer Rockwood Shepard and his Carbondale Investments partnership are to be lauded for the fact that they already have provided for what are called “garden/orchard” sites and “other ancillary horticultural related issues” within the project, although the exact nature of these uses has yet to be defined.

These concepts could blend well with the local food movement that already is gaining ground in the valley, with farmers markets offering produce, meats, cheese and other types of food produced on the Western Slope.

Community gardens are becoming increasingly popular here in the valley, to the point where organizers have sought out new sites for expansion.

And a growing number of area ranchers and farmers are selling beef products derived from livestock raised here and processed at nearby slaughterhouses.

Shepard already has announced the next year and more will be spent repairing some of the damage done to the 160-acre site when it was scraped by an earlier developer whose project failed.

Given that lag time before building actually begins, we urge him to set the local-agriculture concept in motion right away.

It could be that area nonprofit organizations would be interested in getting involved, or that a larger-scale production might emerge that could employ local workers.

There is no knowing how far this could go until we try, and a community-minded effort such as this might lessen the disappointment felt by many who opposed this project in all its versions over the years.

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