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Letter: Rebalancing development

Patrick Hunter
Carbondale

There are two schools of thought on development. It is necessary and inevitable; it sucks and it should stop.

If you are in the first camp you are focused on short-term personal financial gain. If you are in the second camp you are focused on the quality of the existing surroundings and are willing to accept a lower financial “standard of living.”

Seeing former Pitkin County Commissioner Joe Edwards at the Mid-Valley Planning and Zoning Commission reminded me of the different atmosphere in the upper valley in the early ‘70s. The mood was decidedly hostile to development of any kind. But the economy and lifestyle had a good balance. Wages were enough to make a little savings and find a place to buy. There were no ostentatious displays. Some of the wealthiest had the most beat-up Jeeps for the little driving people did. Many folks actually walked from their place to the mountain to ski. How things have changed.

The zoning back in the day was “down-zoning.” Today planning directors are heard saying “we just want codes that make things easier for developers.” We used to have one or two people in the building department, and maybe somebody called a planner. Today we have the “Office of Community Development.” That title just about says it all.

But something else is changed. In 1972 a book was put out by some scientists at MIT. It was called  “Limits to Growth.” The research proved that human society was up against a problem of diminishing resources. They said we needed to mend our ways or we were going to be in very serious trouble. Of course the book was largely ignored. 

In the early 1980s scientists for ExxonMobil told their bosses that we had gotten into a dangerous place with the climate. The bosses have spent millions to cover up that knowledge. The letters have been uncovered.

So what should be done in Aspen, old Basalt, El Jebel and south of Glenwood? We have a choice between recognizing the reality of climate change and of exhausting resources and saying no; or we can wash our hands of a problem for which the next generation will pay the biggest price, and take the cash now. Your call.


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