PI Editorial: Ascendigo camp plans should be approved | PostIndependent.com

PI Editorial: Ascendigo camp plans should be approved

Post Independent editorial board

Change is never easy, especially when it feels like it’s happening right next door.

But at the same time, unease about something doesn’t give a veto right over another person’s use of private property — especially when the proposed use already aligns with current zoning and regulations.

That’s why we would encourage the Missouri Heights residents worried about Ascendigo Autism Services’ camp proposal to work with the organization in addressing those concerns, instead of outright opposing the plans.

Ascendigo recently submitted plans to Garfield County for a 126-acre summer camp and year-round activities center for autistic children. The property is situated just west of the Garfield-Eagle county line off Harmony Lane, but is entirely in Garfield County.

If approved, the camp facilities could accommodate 24 campers and 50 staffers and include equestrian, therapy, reception, dining and other amenities.

Founded in 2004, Ascendigo has been working with autistic children at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus summer camp location for the past six years. The CMC location, however, isn’t a perfect fit — building from the ground up allows for facilities more accommodating for those with autism and the long-term goals of Ascendigo.

“… People with autism deserve to be a vital part of our community and given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential,” CEO Peter Bell told the Post Independent earlier this month.

For some people with homes in the area, however, the development represents a big change to the overall character of Missouri Heights.

“This is a very large enterprise being dropped into the middle of a residential area, and would change the entire nature of the neighborhood and why people came here,” said David Aguilar, who is representing the Keep Missouri Heights Rural group.

While some contend the development should be considered a business — Ascendigo is a 501(c)3 nonprofit — the proposal has been identified by Garfield County as an educational use of the property, which is allowed under current zoning regulations.

We understand that Ascendigo’s size might create a perception they’re a business — most people think of smaller organizations when it comes to nonprofits. But the work they do is clearly that of a nonprofit.

It’s doubtful opposition to the project will end soon, but the truth is that concerned residents’ had the opportunity to secure that land from development for nearly 20 years as it sat unused. All it would have taken is banding together enough like-minded individuals, a grassroots funding campaign and a willing seller in order for them to buy the property.

Falling short of that, however, we shouldn’t allow concern over change to be the bar we set for private property development. Doing so would clearly create an untenable precedent — imagine the chaos of giving anyone near a property the power to decide what is done with it — that would chill future development through all of Garfield County.

Instead of mere opposition, we would again encourage neighbors to reach out to Ascendigo and attempt to find common ground where it exists and help make a camp that is both an invaluable resource for those with autism, as well as a good neighbor.

The Post Independent editorial board consists of Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann and Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud.

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