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Town of Woody Creek idea should be abandoned

Aspen Times Staff Report

The cantankerous community of Woody Creek, roughly a dozen miles west of Aspen, has long been a source of controversy and intrigue in the Roaring Fork Valley.

It is viewed by some as the last bastion of what Aspen was like in the 1960s and early 1970s – independent, iconoclastic, unbowed by authority and feisty enough to intimidate elected politicians.

Others see the neighborhood as nothing more than an increasingly exclusive expanse dominated by relatively wealthy residents, whose vast estates surround the workers’ enclave at the Woody Creek Trailer Park, and whose main goal in life is to keep the area from accepting any more employee housing in its midst, regardless of the need or the availability of appropriate sites.

No matter how you look at it, Woody Creek has built a reputation as being unique in its dealings with Pitkin County. And the fact of the matter is that the county has historically listened closely to what the Woody Creek Caucus says, and often granted its wishes. The result has been that the caucus has a strong voice in county affairs, and gets its way more often than not.

But now some of its residents have come up with another novel idea – setting the neighborhood up as some kind of municipal jurisdiction, capable of controlling its own destiny with little or no interference from Pitkin County and Aspen.

The District Planning Commission of the Woody Creek Caucus will be proposing this idea to the full caucus later this month. It is to be hoped that the caucus membership takes a careful look at what may at first seem like an attractive way of poking Pitkin County in the eye. It may bring more headaches than benefits.

The members of the planning commission are suggesting that a committee be established to investigate the idea, which might seem a harmless enough exercise. But Woody Creek is likely to be facing some serious issues in the not-so-distant future, and might want to think twice before devoting too much energy to what may turn out to be a waste of time and effort.

Setting up a separate political entity is a very time-consuming process, one that involves a number of steps including at least one popular vote within the proposed district, municipality or whatever political subdivision is desired.

It would undoubtedly entail lengthy debates among the Woody Creek residents themselves, not to mention the rest of the county, which would not be able to restrain itself from joining the fray.

It also would cost the residents some money. Lawyers would be called upon, and the creation of a new political entity cannot help but entail considerable paperwork.

Then there is the broader question of what kind of impact this would have on the community at large, the voters and residents of Pitkin County and its two existing municipalities.

The creation of multiple political jurisdictions within the valley would undoubtedly intensify the level of debate needed in making political decisions that could affect the entire valley, and likely would increase the overall level of animosity and rancor that comes with debate around here.

As has been mentioned by others, there also is the possibility of annexation battles between competing jurisdictions, particularly given the fact that there are already several proposals to create “metropolitan districts” encompassing wealthy areas of the county.

All in all, the idea of a town of Woody Creek, or some such designation, does not seem like a particularly good one. It can only be hoped that the Woody Creek Caucus membership thinks long and hard about the potential consequences of this move, and the trouble it might bring not only to themselves, but the rest of us as well.


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