One big suburb?
April 27, 2003
Your editorial Friday regarding Pitkin County’s change of direction definitely had merit. In general, it is often a mistake to say never, ever again, and this may also apply to Pitkin’s move to stop approving applications for large “affordable” subdivisions, or for that matter “unaffordable” subdivisions, in rural areas.
Your editorial logically pointed out that better defining “large” housing projects might be a good idea. However, as a land use major and local government type, I think that you missed the mark a little on this new direction.
First, there would be no negative impacts to existing affordable neighborhoods, such as Aspen Village. You are right in saying that these neighborhoods are the core and heart of this valley. But to continue to approve urban levels of development in rural locations is unnecessary and goes against the very basics of reasonable land use planning.
Pitkin didn’t say they would not fund or support any further affordable housing projects – just not outside urban growth boundaries. Although affordable housing is a necessary part of our valley infrastructure, the rural lands that support our dying agricultural community and wildlife habitat are invaluable and also irreplaceable. Housing can be anywhere; ranches, farms and wildlife cannot.
There is no need to make a choice between affordable housing and maintaining rural lands. There is a need to keep development within urban growth boundaries, which demands consistency, discipline and courage on the part of local governments.
Without this discipline, we cannot hope to maintain any semblance of the lands that attracted us and kept us here. If we think that restricting urban growth to towns is not a reasonable goal, we need to look at the many places in Europe where communities have preserved hard line urban growth boundaries for 1,000 years.
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This did not stop growth and, in fact, is the reason that millions of people travel to Europe each year. It is the reason that Europe still has a viable and sustainable agricultural economy. It is the reason that Europe has mass transit that works – population is centered in towns rather than sprawled across the countryside.
It has taken only 30 or 40 years to approve enough subdivisions to have half of our population in unincorporated areas. I hope that the citizens will support the efforts of Pitkin County so that in 20 more years we won’t be one big suburb.
Jacque R. Whitsitt