17 November 2010: CCC residents want and expect economic growth – Pt II

Clear Creek County residents want and expect economic growth

(Second in the series: Clear Creek: a Sustainable Community)

There are two ways to define community. For libertarian-oriented types, it might be simply a group of people living under the same government out of necessity. For others, the concept of community entails more: sharing common interests, goals, and essential values.

So, when one refers to the “Clear Creek community,” in which context is he/she talking?

For some, CCC serves as an out-of-the-way reserve rather than being an authentically complete sustainable community. That might be perfect for those that don’t see their lives as being interdependent with those of other community members—read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged—or dependent upon a host of other interacting factors including the infrastructure.

For others, though, who understand a viable, sustainable community is more than the sum of its humans, such a place is lifeless, a cultural desert. One might as well be living in Highlands Ranch where chances of catching sight of one’s “neighbor” depends on the brief interlude between the garage door opening and he/she pulling in.

Prior to the election, Clear Creek residents had already expressed their thinking vis-à-vis the Citizen Survey, the results of which were released this past summer. While reducing a complex document to a singular message can be difficult, nonetheless, one powerful theme that reverberates is that living in Clear Creek is wonderful, if one can afford it. Despite 83 percent seeing CCC as an excellent or good place to live, only 29 percent call it that when it comes to work.

With nearly two-thirds of Clear Creekers finding work outside the county, it should come then as no surprise that only about one-third have lived in the county for more than 15 years, a reverse correlation. That commute to Denver or Summit County can get old and over time, unsustainable.

Of the 36 percent working in CCC, two questions the survey does not answer come to mind: What is the percentage of that percentage employed in the public sector—county, school district, state, etc—relative to those in the private realm and of the latter, how many truly earn a livable wage?

Tangent to those findings, 87 percent say job growth is too slow and 83 percent agree it needs to speed up, which suggests the obvious: How can jobs be created without that which provides them—small businesses—starting or growing?

While the rest of the country might be divisible along the red-blue continuum, a major fault line in Clear Creek is between preservation v. economic development. A quick read of the survey results might indicate a bi-polar community—65 percent believing maintaining the scenic beauty of Clear Creek being important and 72 percent supporting development that would enhance the tax base—but upon closer scrutiny, that seems not to be the case.

Economic impacts (local business and jobs) are crucial to 76 percent compared to 57 percent holding that protection of historical and cultural assets is important, a 19-point spread. It suggests environmental concerns and related issues are not synonymous with preserving historical structures. It can also indicate of those who believe historical preservation is important, many do so not for esoteric or self-centered motives but because it can be good for business.

So, while 64 percent say preserving historic homes and buildings is important, a near-identical number, 63 percent, support responsible mining, which has significance regarding the Cultural Resources Management Plan, the topic of next week’s column. And, it’s interesting to note that 91 percent believe that historic preservation should be encouraged through voluntary programs.

With regard to large-scale, utility-sized wind and solar energy development, 51 percent support it strongly and 32 percent somewhat, which leaves a mere 17 percent somewhat or strongly opposed. Of those supporting development, 84 percent cite economic benefits and 56 percent societal benefits, which might be interpreted as meaning “it is our ethical responsibility to do our part in weaning America from fossil fuels.” Of those opposed, 63 percent do so due to visual impacts and 60 percent because of environmental impacts.

There is far more data to be mined—pun intended—and interpretations to be made than what I can cover here. The entire survey is on the County’s website, so I encourage you to study it so to become more informed about what your fellow community members are thinking.

From my perspective though, the survey clearly indicates CCC residents want and expect growth, albeit smart and not sprawl, a challenge exacerbated by the fact that over 80 percent of the land in the county is public and about two-thirds of its tax revenues comes from one source, the demise of which will likely occur before many of the 14 percent who are 65 and older.

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