December 2, 2005

Speak up or..

Things are coming down to the wire, and it looks like 450 new homes will start sprouting up in the canyon very soon.

The Pine Ridge planned unit development has been given a final blessing by the Park County Planning Commission, and our Board of County Commissioners will hold two meetings prior to approving or denying the project's final plat.

Once the BOCC makes it decision, the controversy is just a matter of history.

Opposition to this housing project has been strong, vocal and historical. There is some irony in the fact that next month's public hearing to be held by the BOCC on Dec. 14 will be in the same location where a public lynching nearly took place not so many years ago. As many of us remember, Paramount Development was figuratively ridden out of town on a rail that night.

The project then morphed into the Villages at Sunset, causing blood to boil. Then we have the introduction of Pine Ridge which will bring a metro-style development into our mountains.

Not too many area residents want to see this volume of homes added. And they have been vocal about the "cityfied" feel the project has.

At some point we do have to ask: just how many more houses do we need up here? We have such a glut of homes already on the market. Why do we need 450 more? And that accounts for only one of the several areas slated for development in the same area.

Park County does not have a growth management plan in place, and our Strategic Master Plan -- a document which took so many years to finalize -- is nothing more than "suggestions" as to what the residents of Park County want to see. The decision to make the document advisory in nature falls squarely on our county commissioners' shoulders.

The problem is the questions above are moot. There's not even a cat whisker's chance the project will be denied by the BOCC. So the relevant questions are actually: knowing approval will be granted, what conditions will be imposed on the PUD? Will those conditions make the project more palatable? Although citizens often feel disenfranchised in public processes, their voices are important here. If you don't buy the statement, consider this: one planning commissioner questioned several issues. As a result of his questions, three conditions were attached to the list of contingencies which might not have otherwise been placed there.

We do not know the extent to which the public can influence this list of conditions. We can guarantee, however, nonparticipation means nothing will happen.

We expect the fire station will be packed on Dec. 14. And for people who have concerns about the project, this will be the last opportunity to stand up and be heard.

If you have concerns, attend. If you have a voice, use it.

Speak up and let your views be known. This isn't a time to be timid.

-- Lora Abcarian

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