Serenity in accepting a thing I cannot change

Roger Marolt

There was a heated letter in the paper last week.The writer said that enough is enough as far as development around here is concerned. His conclusion was that we are fouling our own nest. He threw a wild haymaker, attempting to crush the new Base Village in Snowmass, Burlingame affordable housing and sprawl, all in one blow.And you know what? He’s right. But, this letter had no impact. I looked out this morning and nothing had changed. While short-term reasoning tells us that we have to build and construct to keep up with the competition, reflection shows that we are moving away from the essence of what made us prosperous. But, reflection isn’t compatible with development. Now, this letter writer happens to be a friend. He’s one of the smartest people I know. He’s thoughtful and kind-hearted. On top of that he’s in incredibly good shape, one hell of a skier and good-looking, too. I love him like a brother. Aw heck, I may as well level with you, he is my brother. Anyway, as much as I agree with him, there was something missing from what he said. It didn’t strike me until I drove out to inspect the progress of his new house on Sunday afternoon. There it was, new yellow framing pushing up out of the ground, the fresh shoots of sprawl.I wanted to call him a hypocrite. But, that thought quickly dissipated into the realization that development is not the sin of any one person. It is a group effort with 100 percent participation.Standing there at the construction site, I recognized that there is a part of our composition that makes growth and sprawl inevitable. Nonetheless, my consciousness rebelled at the thought. I couldn’t let go of the belief that I could save this place.At the same time, I knew that I didn’t need to ask my brother about being so adamantly opposed to development while he himself was building a home in this former field of sagebrush with terrific views. I knew the answer because I had paraphrased it years earlier when I built my own house. They are the words that justify so much and humble so little: “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”If I stood behind my convictions of limiting growth and gave up my opportunity to build on that available fifth of an acre, somebody else would have built there just the same. It may as well be me with the extra square footage.Like rising water, my family overflowed our condo into a new home and other people flowed into the place we left behind. The lake continues to get deeper and won’t stop rising until it reaches the top of the dam. I think back to the fight over the Burlingame affordable housing project. I believe the most convincing argument for the project, however unsatisfying, was that the land wasn’t going to remain an open horse pasture forever. Eventually something was going to be built there and it might as well be housing for local workers.The same song and dance was given to us by SkiCo when they asked for our support in the construction of their new Snowmass Base Village – “If we don’t build it, someone else surely will.”The damnable thing about it is that it’s true. We are opportunists. It’s our nature. Not taking into account things we consider to be completely immoral or wrong, if even one other person would take advantage of an opportunity presented to us, we can justify ourselves in taking advantage of it. It’s a given that there will always be at least one person who will say yes, so the entire system is constantly in motion, filling voids. Development, therefore, is a collective effort. Not a single one of us can excuse ourselves from being a part of it. It makes no difference how long we’ve been here or what circumstances brought us here. Like rain, it doesn’t matter if you fell into the lake from the clouds last night or bubbled up from a spring years ago. Once in the reservoir, we are all rising water. The only chance to completely stop development is for us, as a government, to purchase desirable, untainted land for preservation. Unfortunately we didn’t have the foresight to do this when land was relatively inexpensive. We can’t possibly raise enough cash to buy anything now, and even if we could, we don’t seem to possess the wisdom to do nothing with it. There are probably two things that cause so much fear about all of this growth. First of all, we are frustrated because we are powerless to stop it. Second, we are anxious about the unknown. How much higher will this water rise? Do you ever feel a little guilty about wishing the bottom would just drop out of this economic prosperity so that things would calm down a little? Well, don’t. It’s only a harmless fantasy that we have no power to effectuate either. None of us wants hard times to befall our town. We really just desire to look up one day and see that the water is finally coming over the top of the dam and the tide has leveled off. We want to be here when the lake is full at last so that we can enjoy the still water, at whatever level it may settle.This capitulation is not an excuse for more development, nor is it support for developers who do not understand proportion or scale. It is simply coming to terms with the fact that land is so valuable here that halting growth is impossible. Water always works its way through the cracks. So, are developers, timeshares swindlers, and base village whitewashers going to ruin our lives? Naw, they don’t have that kind of power. Between overindulging in food and drink, neglecting regular exercise, and poisoning good relationships while nurturing bad ones, we’ll do a more thorough job of that than they ever could. This development phenomenon is neither good nor bad. It just is. Given the inevitability of it, then, should we give developers a break and keep our peace? Not a chance. Although growth is inevitable, some is more compatible with sustaining a vibrant community than others. Maybe we can’t control the amount of development, so now we need to start focusing on what types we allow. We have to let it be known what works for our town. Because if we don’t, someone else will. Roger Marolt believes that the odds of finding an undeveloped place as nice as this are slim. He’ll review your plans at