Floyd Hill should remain county gateway
Fair warning, Floyd Hillers, you better sit before reading on – Fabyanic is about to drop a bombshell. Empirical data is convincing me that it’s time to put to bed the issue about development on Floyd Hill, the east entrance to Clear Creek and Gateway to Colorado’s Mountain Experience, by purchasing the parcels and re-zoning them open space.
Years ago I participated in the debate when the issue at that time focused on the Elmgreen parcel. Then I argued in support of David’s right to develop the land within its commercial zoning designation.
Prompted, though, by a fresh look within context of the county’s evolving economic situation, I no longer hold that just because a property owner has the right to develop his/her site means he/she ought to do if doing so does more harm to the community than good. And that is what development there would do for both the local community and the larger Clear Creek one: Its costs would far outweigh its benefits.
For stakeholders from Floyd Hill to Silver Plume, the implications for development are far reaching in terms of our economic viability.
For the local community, I’ve come to understand development would have immediate and consequential implications that would adversely affect their safety and well-being. Water sources, already strained throughout the state, and access for emergency vehicles are chief and foremost among the concerns.
For the larger community, I’ve come to believe that development there would conflict with our stated—as evidence by responses to countywide surveys—desires for maintaining our rustic heritage and lifestyles and would have debilitating impact on our financial condition. In short, development would cost Clear Creek taxpayers far more that any revenue enhancement, both direct and indirect, might bring in.
The simple and plain truth is there is no magic bullet that will solve the economic crisis when the tax revenues accrued from the Henderson Mine play out. Those jobs will be lost and the county revenue coffers will be impacted greatly since over 60 percent of our revenue comes from Henderson. A housing development atop Floyd Hill or other commercial venture would provide only temporary or minimal employment and the property taxes accrued would be miniscule.
Further, whether the development is commercial or private, it would require an infrastructure that would be costly to develop and to maintain.
In short, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Where to then?
It comes down to vision: Clear Creek post-mining. Models of that experience are available, one next door in Summit County.
First, we’re already on our way. More than a third of our jobs are currently related to that experience, the most of any other occupation, including mining.
Second, we have the infrastructure for a recreational economy already in place: It’s consists of our mountains and streams.
Third, we have a leg up on our western and northern friends and neighbors: With the exception of those who can afford to fly to Eagle County, travelers from Denver must commute through Clear Creek to get to Summit, Eagle and Grand counties. We get first crack at them.
Our message, accordingly, should be simple: Clear Creek- Don’t drive through it, but to it.
That in turn points to another negative about development atop Floyd Hill: It would conflict with that message. To see gaudy and ostentatious sites at the first sight of Clear Creek would profoundly undercut the product we’re literally trying to sell: Clear Creek as a place to come, stay, and play even if it’s only for a day.
The entrances to Summit and Grand counties have the benefit of being astride the Continental Divide and offer breath-taking vistas. To look out over the Ten Mile Range after exiting the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels while descending I-70 into Summit or the Indian Peaks after crossing Berthoud Pass when winding down U.S. 40 towards Winter Park is an amazing experience even after countless times. I know: I did it for years when teaching at Summit High and re-experience it seasonally when returning to Winter Park/Mary Jane for work.
Consider how the Snow Mountain meadow, in conjunction with the descent down Floyd Hill, offers a similar experience not only for visitors but also for us locals merely coming home. Food for thought.
Program Note: Join me and my guest Jim White at 3:00 Saturday, October 26th, on KYGT for an in-depth conversation about this.
Next week: Part II – A positive vision for Clear Creek.