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No legislative process

The controversy over the proposed Village at Wolf Creek continues. Few issues draw as much attention in Pagosa Country as this proposed project in Mineral County, on the other side of the Divide.

One reason we suspect the proposal packs this kind of punch is the fact it is the brainchild of a very rich man, Red McCombs. Nothing inspires ire like the doings of a rich man. Especially, when as was the case in a prior incarnation, the project is fronted by an individual with a decidedly abrasive manner. That individual is now gone, replaced by a much smoother operator, but the desired result on the part of the developer remains much the same, some of the tactics remain unchanged, and the rich man remains at the center of the issue.

Another thing that gets folks riled up is what many see as the absurdity of a project located near the Divide, at an unusually high elevation, in the midst of what can best be described as a “flat” ski industry economy. It just doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t make sense to us.

Some complain that a project in Mineral County will have a profound, and adverse effect on local services and amenities — though a direct effect on services in Archuleta County (law enforcement, fire, emergency medical) could only occur with the cooperation of local entities via intergovernmental agreements, none of which have been proposed in concrete form. Whether local housing, schools and social services would be affected, is a matter for debate.

Some oppose the Village because of its intrusion on “pristine” forest land. The land adjacent to Wolf Creek Ski Area is hardly pristine. That the recently established lynx habitat might be affected, however, is a good bet.

Traffic and pollution (both environmental and aesthetic) are legitimate concerns. Added population anywhere in this part of the country is a concern. Any population added in Pagosa Country in the last 25, maybe 50 years has certainly had a deleterious effect on the environment.

Many of those in the construction and real estate industries support the project, though its benefits to them are purely theoretical. Some skiers support the project, with an eye on expansion of opportunities for alpine fun.

We are firmly in the camp that believes the owners of private property should be able to do what they wish, so long as what they wish falls within established rules and regulations, at all levels. It would be hypocritical of anyone in Pagosa Country who moved here in the last 50 years to believe otherwise. Most homes here sit on what was once ranchland and forested land. Most homeowners want the right to manage their properties as freely as possible.

What we don’t agree with is the so-called “legislative” solution to a proposed land swap for the Village. We agree with the author of a letter to the editor who notes, correctly, that the land proposed for the swap is not private; it is public land and the public has the right to every avenue of inspection and comment available. Those opposed and those in favor of the swap should be allowed to participate in the standard process, managed by the USFS, with no stone left unturned.

However that process turns out … so be it.

What we are more interested in are the projects here in Pagosa Country that come along regularly — proposals for large-scale subdivisions, for example, some of which are adjacent to major waterways and/or overlap significant wildlife migration corridors — that are subjected to public scrutiny via the planning and approval processes in town and county. And we wonder: Why (with only one recent exception — the TreeTops project) are there so few people at those meetings and hearings? Why are there so few complaints voiced about what happens in our own backyard? Does the outcry occur only when the obscenely wealthy and their abrasive minions play the game?

Karl Isberg