29 July 2009: Floyd Hill a concern for all county residents

Floyd Hill: a concern for all county residents

Two weeks ago I wrote that those who are unaware of the “battle for Floyd Hill” either don’t care or aren’t paying attention.

Since then, it is hard to imagine anyone in Clear Creek in the not-paying-attention category, thanks to the amount of print in the form of columns by the commissioners and me and several thought-provoking letters to editor.

The net effect ought to be everyone now paying attention and that is a very good thing.

The essential arguments I gleaned from the letter writers is that Floyd Hill is the gateway to Clear Creek and its future—residential, commercial, or a blend of both—ought to be a concern for every Clear Creek resident.

By moving the debate, however, from the local plain to the larger arena, much like road and bridge concerns, proponents are declaring their neighborhood to be a countywide area-of-interest unlike any other in Clear Creek, thus giving every CCC resident a voice in what happens in their neighborhood. My hypothetical idea of a countywide plebiscite might actually become a reality.

The debate brings into focus two competing visions or philosophies about what Clear Creek ought to be: God’s-little-acre v. George Jackson, who, of course, has been credited or blamed with starting the whole mess in 1859 by discovering gold.

Twenty-first century gold seekers are only following his path, albeit in the form of development rather than real-sweat work like precious-medal extraction. And those who have found their little acre in God’s paradise live here both for what Clear Creek offers and what it is not.

As with everything, there are dangers in excesses of both camps.

Without a sound commercial base, the community cannot survive: “Not on personal property taxes alone can you survive,” to paraphrase a biblical caution.

My experience on the Board of Education gave me firsthand insight in the precariousness of school district’s financial state, which like the county’s can evolve into a financial basket case once the looming closure of the Henderson Mine, the county’s number-one tax base entity, happens.

The first question that needs to be settled about Floyd Hill is whether there should be any commercial development at all.

Etta Satter offers a number of alternative ideas in her letter, and a couple folks have commented to me that that non-commercial development would be fine, but the FH residents should shoulder that burden by anteing up to buy the land in question for an open-space preserve or other desirable use.

The downside, besides the financial costs to those residents, would be the potential removal of more taxable land and property from the tax rolls in a county with 80-plus percent of its land already “open space.”

If the answer to zoning FH completely rural mountain residential is no, then the follow up would be about how far to go with development.

Super-development excess can be seen in Silverthorne, our neighbor to the west with its sea of factory-outlet stores. Tacky and gawdy, it causes the adage “all that glitters is not gold” to be turned on its head by shouting “that which doesn’t glitter can be gold.”

Writer Jan Ziman, as well as another gentleman with whom I have spoken, invokes the term “exurbia” in reference to sprawl on Floyd Hill. The area, as Ziman notes, only “looks halfway natural and pleasant” and has already, it can be argued, become a classic case of exurban sprawl.

Ironically, the law of unintended consequences might apply one day due to transit, for which Harry Dale has effectively and correctly advocated, with lots more people seeking their little acres up here, thus increasing the potential for sprawl throughout Clear Creek.

Nevertheless, sprawl, while correlated to, is not synonymous with urbanization no more than commercial development is.

Finally, there’s that elephant atop the hill: the wastewater treatment plant—WWTP—that is an albatross around the neck of the school district, which the county expressed a strong interest in buying, but flushed down the latrine after it got to the county lawyer’s office.

Who pulled the chain and why? Now, that is something that remains more a secret than the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” or meetings on the county’s sub-regional Master Plan for Floyd Hill.

Ultimately, we need to come to grips with the collapse of the capitalistic principle of growth and expansion predicated on burgeoning population, which is occurring for one simple reason: we’re running out of room to put and the capability to sustain everybody—globally, nationally, and locally.

The key must be smart growth, a nebulous concept that needs to be defined in its local application. That concept along with what’s to be done with the school district’s WWTP should also be part of the conversation, the outcome of which can have far-reaching implications for the rest of the county.

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