Now is the time to slow growth in building-happy Eagle County
July 5, 2005
It’s encouraging to see some political will to take on growth in Eagle County. For too long the county government has had a favorable eye to almost any development proposal, and the results are apparent. Much of the Interstate 70 corridor from Dotsero to Vail has for all intents and purposes been turned over to strip malls, big box stores and large housing projects. The increasingly suburbanized corridor distracts from the wild beauty of the central Rockies.We hope newly elected Commissioner Peter Runyon and fellow Democrat Arn Menconi are willing to stand up to developers, property owners and the real estate lobby. Real political courage will be required to enact strict land-use regulations to prevent the worst kind of sprawl from consuming Eagle County altogether.There is plenty worth preserving in Eagle County – along the Colorado River outside Dotsero, for instance, or south from Gypsum toward Cottonwood Pass or the upper reaches of Missouri Heights here in the Roaring Fork Valley.Runyon is correct in saying that it has become a now-or-never proposition. Residential development is humming along at a healthy clip – the total number of residences (first and second homes) in Eagle County grew 11 percent between 2003 and 2005. There will be a time in the near future when the current interest in conservation and slower growth is drowned out by the demand for more services from all the people moving there. New schools, hospitals and shopping malls will beget all the utilities and roads needed to service them. Then it will be too late.Runyon is starting what he calls his growth-control “dog-and-pony show” by arming himself with statistics and meeting with citizen groups and business organizations. And he has said that he plans to engage local jurisdictions as much as possible through the process. Both are good ideas.But Runyon must also engage his fellow commissioners, Menconi and Tom Stone. Menconi, a fellow Democrat, will be critical in any reform effort. And while Stone, the senior member on the Board of County Commissioners, will likely resist change, his opinions and involvement deserve consideration.In the end, any real change will require considerable political courage. We hope Runyon and Menconi are ready to take the heat.