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The Village, or our village?

Just when you thought it was safe to go out … it’s back! The proposed Village at Wolf Creek has reared its head in a remodeled guise, and there is dust in the air as proponents and opponents muster their forces.

You remember The Village, don’t you? The first proposal was a massive, 2,000-plus unit extravaganza set next to Wolf Creek Ski Area — a proposal opposed by nearly everyone who would not directly benefit from its success.

Now, an attempt by developers to effect a land swap that would save wetlands and ease access problems has brought a new proposal to light — this one for a phase involving 491 units.

The Village proposal is a magnet for controversy. This week’s SUN contains an article about the situation and letters from writers concerning the project.

Opposition has begun, not just to the proposed land swap involving a Congressional action favored by the developer, but to the entire project. Our county commissioners have expressed concern about the development — although not in their own words. Environmental groups are weighing in and the general public is on alert and responding.

The dialogue is valuable, so long as it sticks to arguments that have merit. And, as concerns us, so long as those arguments are tailored to the fact we live in Archuleta County and have very little to say about whether or not the project proceeds.

We can discard some arguments against the development, the first that it would damage a “pristine” environment. The word “pristine” is greatly abused and, in this case, the site is anything but pristine. It has been trampled in all manner of ways. It is undeveloped, not pristine.

Second, we’ll hear statements concerning altitude. A medical caution might be forthcoming if anything is built at The Village, but altitude has little power as an argument against the development.

Some will argue that Archuleta County residents will pay for certain services at the development. This will not happen unless agreements are struck with agencies that provide those services — and no such agreements have been struck.

There are points to consider, no doubt more than are noted here:

• That some employees at The Village would live in Archuleta County and, thus, could add to the school population, to the health care and law enforcement burden here. What the numbers would be and what the effect of the increase in population would be is anyone’s guess. How many would pay property taxes can’t be known.

• The problem of private property rights. Any development at The Village will have to go through an extensive federal environmental review process as well as pass muster with Mineral County and state agencies. If the developers meet all the demands, should they have the right to proceed, even in the face of a ski industry that is flat, at best?

• There is an environmental cost when any development becomes reality — minimal on our side of the pass, worrisome regionally.

This leads us to another and what we believe is a more important concern.

While attention should be given to The Village by anyone fretting about change in the region, we are puzzled by many of those in Pagosa Country who become agitated about the project, and the environmental damage that might occur.

Where were they recently when our commissioners gave vested rights to a subdivision project adjacent to Pagosa Springs that could include three times as many units as the first phase of The Village — a subdivision that proposes construction near the San Juan River? No one attended the meeting. No letters were written.

Where were they during the town sanitation district process that led to a decision not to construct a new wastewater plant — a plant that, on occasion, releases amounts of ammonia and biomass into the San Juan River that exceed standards, at a point upriver from a PAWSD station that removes water for drinking purposes?

There are times one wonders what’s more important: The Village, or our village?

Karl Isberg