Boomtown ballot

I woke one morning roughly four years ago to the familiar beep of Mr. John Deere just outside my bedroom window. The first crack of a nail gun sounded moments later and a full blown symphony of Skil saw rips, concrete pours and RC Cola belches answered. The backhoe ballet was officially under way.

A couple months and a couple hundred thousand later, the construction crew went home to Shiprock as my neighbors cut the ribbon on their remodel – a randy new entertainment wing. Clad in redwood, the vaulted cavern housed a home theatre, “popcorn room” and tricked-out game room. On many a night, the 72” plasma would tickle the darkness and the subwoofers would shake the aspens. When the screen wasn’t running, the couple would step out of their 10,000-square-foot slice of Colorado heaven, ease into their new spa – aptly named the Euphoria – and take in a view that spanned from the Needles to Raider Ridge and bubble the night away.

My own view was slightly more wanting. Just down our county road, another parcel of scrub and sage had just been scraped. Mere hours after the entertainment wing’s unveiling, another crew poured a foundation, heavy timbers arrived and the beep of large yellow vehicles and ka-chunk of nail guns returned. Days after that, yet another crew started dissembling the historic barn across the street to make way for several new homes and duplexes. And it didn’t end there. In the first 3 miles of my bike commute, I would pass not one, but three new townhome complexes in various stages of development.

The signs of prosperity were everywhere that year, and everyone wanted a big taste of that brown gold. But fast forward just four short years, and our riches have burst into rags.

The entertainment wing in that next door trophy home now sits empty. The couple skipped town not long ago and is off chasing bigger bucks in Denver. Periodically, a caretaker stops in to check up on the Euphoria. That new house down the street has boasted a for-sale sign for three of the last four years. “Price Reduced” has called out in bright red letters for much of that time. And that once beautiful historic barn now sits half broken in a sorry state. Luckily the bubble popped before that other neighbor received Planning Commission approval.

Remember those three townhome developments – one (an energy-efficient, contemporary design with very little in the way of rusted tin and exposed timbers) sold-out quickly and is now reselling. The other two are in various states of foreclosure, and one of them (“Colorado’s most luxurious community”) has become a monument to just how confused we were back in those days. Nonetheless, I’m afraid many of us have yet to see the sun setting over La Campanella.

Already, the cries of “Build, Baby, Build!” are sounding from the pulpit as an election-charged GOP rallies around the banner of economic growth. Buoyed by millions from “nonprofits” like Western Traditions Partnership and Americans for Prosperity, they’ve offered us a magic pill – give us your vote and we’ll fire up the jets on the Euphoria and trip back to 2002 together.

In the meantime, the Grand Old Party has been spreading a series of half truths and bold lies about the other guys – global warming is a government hoax intended to fleece your hard-earned greenbacks; tax-and-spend liberals are pocketing Social Security benefits and trying to throw your sickly mother and elderly aunt out on the street; “environmental extremism” is costing Colorado jobs and hurting our poor, struggling petrochemical industry. We’re told that a new “pro-business” and “anti-regulation” stance is going to put us back on our feet, back to work and back in the fast lane.

However, the substance of this brave new forecast is nowhere to be found. The actual details of good old boys’ recovery plan are as fuzzy as tattered Tyvek. “When we retake the House and Senate, we’ll give people some certainty,” Durangoans heard during a recent Republican rally at local GOP headquarters (The business space formerly known as “Flower Power,” a rich irony outstripped only by the Dems’ convenient location next to the Downtown Smoke Shop).

If the candidates believe a statement in favor of “certainty” and prosperity will right all the wrongs of the past, they’re going to have to work a little harder for my Election Day mark. I don’t know about you, but I’ve already tasted the outcome of more traffic, more sprawl, more septic tanks, less open space and a generally lower quality of development. And I’m sorry, but Durango only has room for one La Campanella. There’s also already one certainty that we Coloradans can trust in – “Build, Baby, Build” is almost always chased by “Bust, Daddy, Bust!”

Feel free to call me an environmental extremist, but I’ll be steering away from the missteps of the past when I cast my ballot Nov. 2. I’ve already sat through one too many performances of the backhoe ballet. Fresh actors, a new script and innovative direction are what’s really needed as we move into the next scene.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows