Red Feather impacts will be felt for years to come
By a majority decision of our City Council, we will be forced to pay the costs and live with the impacts of Red Feather Ridge for years to come. They believe that expansion of our Urban Growth Boundary and city limits is our best future. As if “majority” should really matter. For the overwhelming majority of citizens in opposition to expansion, it was an exercise in wasted time and futile effort.
Along with those who believe that “bigger is better,” there were others motivated perhaps by greed and selfishness. They are among those who believe that if “we don’t grow, we will die.” They might all benefit financially. They might reap financial rewards now and assure bright futures for their heirs.
But what about current and future generations not so blessed? Maybe it’s “the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.” Who will “live happily ever after,” the “butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker,” us common folk, the “village idiots” in the eyes of some?
Or will it be the “kingdom-makers,” “empire builders,” bankers, developers, Realtors, and consultants? Will they be “laughing all the way to the bank” on the bent-over backs of the overwhelming majority of those opposed?
Yes, “size does matter,” but often with negative rather than positive benefits. It is this type of thinking that “growth can only be measured in quantity” that will keep us from breaking out of a vicious cycle. Our quality of life will suffer by this pursuit of “more growth equals better growth.”
So where does it end?
The city is dependent on sales tax dollars. Carbondale and Rifle have approved big-box retail development. We need to keep up and get ours, too. We need more commercial development to get more sales taxes. Then we need more employees to work there. And more housing for more residents and employees who will be the retail consumers. Then the increased demand for more services and necessary infrastructure improvements means we need more dollars to operate, so we must grow even more.
As presented by city staff, approximately 66 percent of our taxes are paid by those outside the city limits. Often touted as coming primarily from tourists, in reality much comes from area residents shopping in our retail hub. This includes Four Mile Creek corridor residents. They are part of our community and pay sales taxes to support our city and the elected representatives that ultimately dismissed the majority public opinion.
Since we are in need of so much revenue to operate, provide amenities, and offset growth impacts, then maybe there is a solution in front of us. Red Feather Ridge values the land to be given to the city for a park and cemetery at $4.4 million. Maybe we should take that property given to the city and sell it back to Red Feather Ridge for more residential development.
After all, their financial expert said that Red Feather will be “financially beneficial” to Glenwood Springs. Here’s the chance to be sure. Ten times more cash to offset impacts than currently negotiated! The decision has been made to sacrifice this rural area to new suburban sprawl. What’s a little more? We can use the money to build a new bridge that will benefit the whole region. We can seriously and openly seek another location for a cemetery, perhaps on city-owned lands.
While we’re at it, why not sell the airport to the Roaring Fork Re-1 school district for a new high school, so that taxpayers districtwide will add millions more dollars to our city coffers? And the right expert will represent that more development and more vehicles will not affect traffic levels on Midland Avenue. Then we can sell “excess” land along the Roaring Fork River not needed for a bypass and use that money to build the bypass. Just imagine all the riverfront residential, retail, and lodging that could happen. More consumers, and more sales, accommodation, and property tax dollars means more money to pay for growth impacts.
Drastic decisions and drastic approvals may require drastic measures. We need to look at diversifying revenue sources to reduce dependence on sales tax dollars. As a community we might support additional tax options (such as an attractions tax) and raising property taxes to avoid expansionism and stay within our urban growth boundary. We could change the philosophy that we must grow outward in order to survive and instead focus on the current and potential successes within our current city limits and urban growth boundary.
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