Letter: Absence of development
October 8, 2018
If you have been following the struggle in Basalt over a currently vacant piece of land, you probably need a hobby. Or, you may be involved in the development proposals, or you may be in the local government, or you may be a local business that would welcome more economic activity. Or you may be one of a growing number of people, like me, that have had it with the incessant development of Basalt and the valley.
On the local level we are seeing more and more impacts of this growth. Recreation areas are overwhelmed and trashed, wildlife is in steep decline, traffic is almost constant, taxes are constantly increasing, and — ironically — there is not enough housing for working people.
On the planetary level we are feeling "aridification" from overheating that just resulted in the Basalt Mountain wildfire. Our rivers are at record lows, and snowfalls are predicted to decrease. Natural resources such as metals, and sea creatures that have provided food, are depleted.
I just read that Basalt will be asking the public what should be done with the bare ground alongside the river. It occurred to me as a contractor and former government official that while we have reams of documents to dictate how various sections of land should be developed, there is very little that bears on "nondevelopment." It is as if the option to do nothing, essentially, is impossible to conceive. Heads start to spin and then explode. Our system is set up to create masterplans, zoning maps, identification of hazards, measure impacts (which are always "mitigated"), set and observe height restrictions, create allowable densities, have reviews, eventually design buildings, codes for buildings for safety and efficiency, collect fees, and now for "greenness." (Oxymoron on the "greenness"?)
To do nothing with property within a town; well that's just "un-American." There is money to made on that land. If you don't let me make money, I'll sue you.
Some people believe a piece of land belonging to the public is craziness. But we have national parks, state parks, county parks including wildlife refuges, and numerous city parks all over the country. We even have people who put their land into conservation easements to maintain the beauty for the future.
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People have almost always treated waterways like a commodity. "Riverfront property, come and get it." I think that's a mistake. For example, California made its beaches public. Some things need to belong to us all. Part of the problem is that a "return on investment" can't easily be calculated on public space along a river — in a town. That's the aim of "environmental" economics. How do you price the things that make you feel good, and that keep you healthy? My advice to the town of Basalt: You should buy it and keep it. You can afford it; in fact, you can't afford not to buy it.
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