Tony Daranyi is a farmer in the Norwood
area, where he and his wife, Barclay, constructed their straw-bale
home. In the wintertime he is a ski patrolman at the Telluride Ski
Area. He is formerly the co-publisher of the Telluride Daily Planet,
which he helped found in 1993. Tony and Barclay have lived in Telluride,
Placer Valley and now Norwood, for 20 years. They have two daughters.
This article was written for the
Valley Floor Anthology, published in late 2005.
Doing the Right Thing: It’s the
The year was 1985. San Miguel Valley Corp. (SMVC),
owner of the spectacular Valley Floor west of Telluride, presented
to a joint meeting of the Town of Telluride and San Miguel County
development plans for the property. It was the first time the company
had unveiled its plans since it purchased the Valley Floor several
years earlier for approximately $6 million from the Idarado Mining
Co. Idarado’s plans to expand its tailings piles to the parcel
were scrapped when the mine shut down a few years earlier. The property
was no longer of value to the gold and silver mining company, and
The room that night was packed with interested townsfolk,
curious about what the future held for this expanse of open space.
At that meeting, we heard SMVC, known as Cordillera Corp. at the time,
lay out plans to subdivide the property into a monstrous development
of lakes, hotels, condominiums, a golf course, shopping centers and
residences. The buildout population would be around 6,500 people.
The development consultants were tieclad professionals brought from
the British Isles, dealing with us, who at the time were mostly unsophisticated
hippies, alpine idealists, hillbillies and country hicks.
But all the fancy maps and scale drawings did nothing
to impress a vast majority of the gathered concerned citizens. More
importantly, the planning boards almost unanimously expressed their
objection to the large plan. They opposed the fact that the plan violated
a density agreement for the property reached only a couple years prior
that limited development to a more palatable 1,770 people, mostly
clustered around the gas station. That original agreement—hammered
out in Telluride Regional Planning Advisory Committee (TREPAC) discussions,
when all the major players in the region agreed to population densities
for their lands—did not mention golf courses or reservoirs.
The TREPAC conceptual plan, which created a new zone district for
the property—the PUD-Reserve— did include an allowance
for a hotel and provisions for affordable housing, the latter still
Because of its less than warm reception, SMVC shelved
the massive development plan presented that night, and it did not
resurface again for several years. But those particular development
plans—and SMVC’s seemingly wanton disregard for both the
desires of locals and the intent of the TREPAC agreement—set
the tone for the type of relationship the region has since had with
SMVC. In a word, it’s been chilly.
The proposed development was so lopsided in its scale
compared to the historic and quaint confines of this old mining town
that it begged skepticism. Telluride’s population hovered around
1,000 souls at the time; the proposed development adjacent to the
town’s confines was more than sixfold that amount. I drummed
up the courage that night to ask these developers a question, one
that went along the lines of, “You say this development will
complement the existing town of Telluride, that this will strengthen
the community of Telluride as we know it today. How is that possible
if the development is six times Telluride’s size? Won’t
the town of Telluride as we know it disappear, be obliterated, behind
a veneer of modern development?” SMVC’s answers to these
questions were filled with the usual rhetoric heard from developers
of a resulting rise in property tax revenues for local government,
of increasing economic opportunity for struggling locals, of new housing
opportunities for those who could least afford it, of restoration
of a land, and of satisfying market demands for prized resort real
My questioning apparently caught the attention of
journalist and Telluride Times-Journal columnist Art Goodtimes.
He queried if I’d be willing to write for the newspaper on a
freelance basis. Short on work and cash at the time, I couldn’t
resist. The rest, as they say, is history, as my entree into journalism
eventually spawned my co-founding of the Telluride Daily Planet.
Over the years, I had the privilege of covering everything and anything
having to do with the Valley Floor.
At the time of my hiring, then-publisher of the Times,
Scott Brown, drilled into my brain his simple twopart formula for
preserving Telluride as we knew it then. Brown’s mantra: “We
must save Bear Creek and the Valley Floor from development.”
That was it. Save Bear Creek and the Valley Floor, and Telluride will
be saved. Fortunately, Bear Creek has been preserved and rescued from
the bulldozer and certain ruination from a society seemingly bent
on pursuing the almighty greenback at all costs. The Valley Floor,
however, is a different story. It continues to be kicked around as
the hot potato in a battle between conservation-minded folk on the
one hand, and private interests, who would rather cash out and see
the land developed, on the other.
But let me digress for a moment. Who is SMVC and
who is this notorious and secretive individual, Neal Blue, the owner
of the Valley Floor? As a journalist, I researched this question over
the years, usually hitting a stone wall. Mr. Blue was always “not
available for comment,” as I explained to the paper’s
readers. SMVC would always refer comment to its hired gun, corporate
president Charlie Haas, an affable individual, who lives in Denver.
The rumor on the street has always held that Neal Blue’s motivation
in developing the Valley Floor mirrors the tastes of his European
wife, who wishes to create an Alpen-esque ambience in this little
valley. Accordingly, she envisions beautiful jagged mountains reflected
in the placid waters of a lake formed by a dammed up San Miguel River,
the valley transformed into an other-worldly state of artificiality.
Her idea of a perfect development scheme for the Valley Floor, so
the speculation goes, is bringing snow-capped peaks, that otherwise
climb into the heavens, down to earth close enough to be touched.
For the record, in the fifteen or so years I spent
covering Valley Floor-related issues as a reporter, Neal Blue was
nary to be seen. If he’s a community-minded player, as his supporters
argue, then where is he? Who is he? He’s certainly not someone
to be found at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, flipping flank steaks
at the Ski and Snowboard Club booth. And he hasn’t marched on
Colorado Ave. during the Fourth of July parade. Nor has he been spotted
bidding up lambs, steers and hogs at the San Miguel Basin Fair. Should
Mr. Blue be portrayed as a villain in this story? Perhaps. He has
stubbornly held fast to his development-at-all-costs position, never
once choosing the road to conservation.
Most recently, I turned to the Internet for help
in finding out just who this person is. Whatever his detractors say,
Neal Blue has had an illustrious, ambitious career. A ’57 graduate
of Yale University, Blue served in the U.S. Air Force and once piloted
a small single-engine aircraft around South America as a correspondent
for the nowdefunct Life magazine.
He is chairman and CEO of General Atomics, a San
Diego-based company formed in 1955 as a division of General Dynamics
and later owned by the big oil giants, Gulf Oil and Chevron. The Blue
family acquired GA in 1986, about the same year they were devising
development plans for the Valley Floor. The company was conceived,
according to GA propaganda, “for the purpose of harnessing the
power of nuclear technologies for the benefit of mankind.” The
company’s website offers a heady list of pursuits, but says
nothing about real estate development or the Valley Floor. Instead,
one finds the company has diversified into such things as nuclear
waste management and an aeronautical systems division that “manufactures
remotely operated aircraft used for various commercial and military
applications around the world.” Translated into layman’s
terms, that means GA manufactures pilotless drones, the types used
in Iraq and Afghanistan and before that, Bosnia. These drones go by
the names Predator and GNAT systems, ALTUS, and Prowler II.
It isn’t until one pulls up a profile of Neal
Blue himself that one gets a hint of where real estate development
fits. Buried within his web page is mention of Cordillera Corp., a
Denver-based company of which Neal Blue is cofounder and chairman.
Cordillera, according to the website, has investments in real estate,
agriculture, natural gas distribution utilities, and oil and gas.
Does summering cows on the Valley Floor to gain the favorable agricultural
land status and thereby avoid the tax man constitute “agriculture”?
Enough on Neal Blue, though it’s interesting to know what Telluride’s
preservationists are up against. The Valley Floor’s recent history
has had its own share of drama and spotlight.
The newsroom at the old Telluride Times-Journal
was all aflutter one early spring morning in 1993. Not only was it
snowing hard outside, making the skiing phenomenal for the late-season
powder hound, but also the news was coming in fast and furious. When
the news is handed to a reporter on a silver platter, it’s kind
of like hitting a big strike while deep sea fishing, after miles and
miles of chugging along. At the time, I was covering the county beat
for the paper, and anything having to do with SMVC would ultimately
find its way to my keyboard and then be published in the newspaper.
Following its 1985 development presentation, SMVC,
save for a few instances when the Valley Cows ventured out on the
Colorado 145 Spur for a photo shoot, was not making headlines. Apparently,
there were still too many “dirtbags” around the region
ready to pounce on any and all development schemes the company may
have presented. Frustration may have set in at SMVC headquarters,
however, during that infamous windy spring of 1993.
Somehow, someway and for some reason, on April Fool’s
Day an internal planning document, circulated to the highest echelon
in SMVC’s offices, was mysteriously faxed to the County’s
planning department, supposedly sent by disgruntled SMVC employee
Kevin Scanlan. The same document was also anonymously faxed to the
newspaper. The fax allegedly disclosed SMVC’s plan to proceed
with their Valley Floor development via unethical and illegal means.
The plan, outlined in convincing detail, called for draining the Valley
Floor’s wetlands under the guise of “agriculture,”
acquiring the Times-Journal weekly newspaper to try to influence
public decision-making, and other shenanigans.
“What in the world is this all about?”
I thought and followed up with phone calls to SMVC headquarters as
well as to Town leaders, county officials and the like, looking for
answers. I worked the story hard. I knew KOTO would break the news
that same evening, but we’d be out with it the next morning,
and I’d have more time to work on the story than would KOTO
News Director Jon Kovash. The story, as well as numerous follow-ups,
caused a predicted stir. SMVC claimed the fax was an April Fool’s
hoax. But no one knows for sure.
I have always kept a finger on the development pulse
by perusing the legal notices in the back of the paper. Here, one
finds tidbits of information, clues that perhaps warrant investigation.
Take for instance the day I discovered SMVC had a huge water proposal
before the district water court. The fine print detailed how SMVC
sought to create a series of dams and reservoirs for a planned golf
course on the south side of the highway. I had uncovered a huge piece
of the development puzzle for the Valley Floor. Off I went, pursuing
the story. I got an environmental perspective on what dams for the
undammed river might mean. Dams on the Valley Floor, according to
the experts, would affect the aquifer and the river’s fragile
ecosystem, all the way to the river’s confluence with the Dolores
River, near the Utah line. Then I called the mayor of Telluride at
the time, the late Peter Spencer. He too had seen the legal notice
in the paper and was appalled. He was furious that SMVC would operate
behind the scenes, not working with any regional entity in devising
development schemes for its huge property. “Why didn’t
they let us know about this ahead of time?” he asked. “Here
we’ve been working on updating our master plan for the Telluride
Valley, and they have a huge piece of the pie that they’ve obviously
kept secret.” He was upset that, on the one hand, SMVC publicly
stated, “We have no plans for the Valley Floor,” and that
then, just as quickly, out of the other side of their mouths, they
filed this sophisticated and well-thought-out water plan. Spencer
facetiously dubbed the scheme “Lago del Blue.” In news
circles, that name has stuck ever since.
In 1998, SMVC amended its water rights application
for the Valley Floor, asking for the creation of two lakes instead
of four. It also sought water rights for a golf course. The results
of this water fight are still pending, but they could have disastrous
consequences for the Valley Floor conservation effort. The water plan
closely mirrors SMVC’s 6,500-person development scheme presented
in the mid-’80s. It-does pay to read the fine print.
In another instance of the still-evolving story on
the Valley Floor, the Telluride Town Council, after months of executive
sessions, scheduled a final public vote on an agreement hashed out
between it and SMVC over a piece of land known as “The Wedge.”
This was a seemingly inconsequential piece of U.S. Forest Service
land, adjacent to Boomerang Road on the valley’s cold, north-facing
slope. SMVC wanted The Wedge in anticipation of a future transportation
link between the Valley Floor and Mountain Village. The Town rankled
SMVC when it also applied to trade land for The Wedge. On the day
of the vote to ratify the hardfought final agreement between the parties,
Telluride council members sabotaged the negotiation. “We need
to go back to the drawing board on this,” explained one councilmember.
“There are too many loose ends. SMVC gets too many rights.”
SMVC officials were appalled. That single incident, it occurs to me
now, caused SMVC to walk away from the table and never look back.
The aptly named Wedge served to drive a deep, if not irreparable,
split between SMVC and the Town of Telluride, and its failed negotiation
was one of Town government’s downfalls.
Craig Ferguson, director of the Telluride Bluegrass
Festival, walked into my cubicle at the Daily Planet one
late-winter day several years ago. His face showed concern. Only a
couple years earlier, Ferguson had taken over the festival after the
sudden and sad passing of the festival’s key organizer, Fred
Shellman. Formerly the festival’s attorney, Ferguson wasn’t
used to the logistical nightmares of trying to put on an event for
10,000 people for four days in a town 65 miles from the nearest stoplight.
He wrinkled his brow as he explained his predicament.
“Tony,” he began, “you know how
the town and SMVC aren’t getting along. Well, I’m having
the hardest time this year in trying to get this festival off the
ground. SMVC’s threatening to pull the camping and the parking
from me on the Valley Floor because of the disputes. Without the parking
and camping, I can’t pull this off. This festival means too
much to us, and it means too much to the town. I need your help.”
Ferguson rightfully followed his instincts by coming
to the newspaper to plead his case. How else to share his plight and
let it be known to the world? The community— especially the
business community, in addition to music lovers everywhere—needed
to know on what perilous ground the Bluegrass Festival stood.
The Bluegrass Festival had become a pawn in the battle
between the Town of Telluride and SMVC. The corporation obviously
realized the festival’s importance to the town’s summer
economy, being the first major boost to cash registers in Telluride
following the slump of spring off-season. Festival promoters needed
the Valley Floor for camping and parking. SMVC apparently figured
that if it could threaten the town economically, it could gain its
way with development. Some capitalists would call that the art of
“negotiation”; I think it borders on extortion. Eventually,
the festival was left high and dry, but through its own creativity
and resourcefulness, the Town figured out how to accommodate Bluegrass
In June 2000, SMVC announced its intention to seek
annexation of the Valley Floor into Mountain Village boundaries and
to pursue development with that town. SMVC also negotiated a development
scheme with regional representatives sitting on an ad hoc advisory
planning committee. Trumpeted as the “Son of TREPAC” but
never quite worthy of that status, the committee would have granted
SMVC many of its original development ideas, a golf course and reservoir
network among them. Mountain Village’s Town Council never signed
the Valley Floor pre-annexation documents, however, but the threat
of annexation to the Mountain Village finally caused the Town to enter
into a litigious phase of relations, namely, condemnation.
Later that summer, many of us stood, arm in arm,
hand in hand, forming a long human chain at the historic “Rally
for the Valley.” Citizens and others concerned about the Valley
Floor’s future gathered at the San Miguel County Courthouse
for a planned march to the Texaco. The chain was made up of folks
of all ages, colors, social and economic levels. Everyone was there
for one purpose: to show public support for preserving this jewel.
The rally was peaceful, although tempers flared on more than one occasion
as several folks, who seemingly could care less about conservation,
drove by in their fancy Saabs, Range Rovers and BMWs, sternly staring
straight ahead or speaking on cell phones. “Honk if you’re
in favor of preservation,” yelled many of the demonstrators.
Several real estate agents appeared in the rally,
as did numerous businessmen and women who believe preservation of
the Valley Floor is the future of Telluride, not its development.
Nevertheless, naysayers questioned the representation of those forming
the human chain. “How many of those people are taxpayers in
Telluride?” they asked, oblivious to the fact that this land
is a treasure, worthy of a fight among all people.
Playing hardball, as if corporate intimidation will
derail the passions of those wanting to preserve the land, SMVC’s
tit-for-tat antics continued. Blaming the condemnation imbroglio,
SMVC has reneged on a pledge made to state and federal officials to
clean up toxic tailings piles on wetlands within the Valley Floor.
SMVC has also closed off all public access to their land, including
Bluegrass parking and camping, hang glider landings, river trail recreational
access and crosscountry skiing.
One night during the winter of 2002, some renegades
fired up snowmobiles and went for a joyride on the Valley Floor, pulling
behind them cross-country track grooming equipment. They prepared
the snowfields for a cross-country ski race the next day, which went
off without a hitch, until the heat caught up with the handful of
racers on lap two and cited some of the contestants for trespassing.
The tussle over the Valley Floor has continued, unabated.
The only difference, since Scott Brown’s prophetic words, is
that the land’s price tag has gone up and up and up. In 2003,
appraisals valued the property at $22 million or $48 million, depending
on whose side you’re on. Is buying the Valley Floor out of reach?
Not for this community. Our local environmental organization, Sheep
Mountain Alliance, is drumming up support for its preservation efforts
from conservationists around the country, who have already pledged
over $5 million. Telluride is also stocked with a chestful of money
in its open space acquisition account. In 2002, a ballot question
seeking formal authorization for the Telluride Town Council to proceed
with condemnation of the south side of the Valley Floor overwhelmingly
won voter approval. Voters strongly feel that through condemnation
they can protect the parcel’s open space qualities and keep
the property away from the bulldozer. In keeping with Telluride tradition,
the vote on condemnation became heated during the course of the election.
Most ballot questions are hotly contested. But after all the ballots
were counted, several of the more vociferous opponents and supporters
put down their arms on election night and put aside for the time being
their philosophic differences. They were seen, sitting side by side,
in the New Sheridan Bar, the winners buying the losers cocktails.
The Town filed for condemnation of the Valley Floor to preserve it
as open space in March 2004.
The latest and perhaps most serious potshot is SMVC’s
successful lobbying of the Colorado state legislature to pass an amendment
to House Bill 1203. H. B. 1203 was introduced with the intention of
curbing condemnation abuses in urban renewal settings, such as a government’s
condemning property and then selling it wholesale to private developers.
But the “Telluride Amendment,” as it was referred to,
has conspicuously different aims: It makes it illegal for municipalities
to condemn land outside municipal boundaries for open space. Being
adjacent to, but outside, town boundaries, the Valley Floor (and property
outside of any other Colorado municipality), then, according to the
law, is off-limits. Telluride, San Miguel County Commissioners, the
Colorado Municipal League and citizens groups statewide fought the
amendment, which nonetheless passed easily in the House and finally
by one vote in the Senate. Although the bill wasn’t signed into
law until June 2004, the amendment was made retroactive to January
2004, making Telluride’s case applicable. That municipal governments
and their home rule charters are being overridden to suit the wishes
of a private interest and its investment speaks volumes about the
sad state of Colorado’s General Assembly. On the day Governor
Bill Owens signed H. B. 1203 into law, SMVC asked the district court
to dismiss Telluride’s condemnation case on the basis of the
In October 2004, District Court Judge Charles Greenacre
rejected SMVC’s arguments and, in a wellarticulated opinion,
offered the rationale for dismissing H. B. 1203’s application
to the Valley Floor case, based on statutory interpretation and precedent-setting
Colorado court decisions. Judge Greenacre held that a home rule municipality’s
right to pursue eminent domain outside of its boundaries is granted
by the Constitution and cannot be denied by a state statute. Since
then, the condemnation case appears to be going ahead. Judge Greenacre
has required that both parties attempt to come to an agreement via
mediation; otherwise, the case will be settled in a valuation trial
scheduled for January 2006. Recent appraisals of the property’s
fair market value continue to differ substantially, Telluride’s
coming in at $26 million and SMVC’s at $51 million.
When I first came to Telluride, as a teenager, in
the mid-70s, I was immediately taken by the town and its surroundings.
The townsfolk then impressed me as an intelligent lot, driven by a
zeal to stand apart from the larger, materialistic, consumption- and
money-dominated society. The value systems of the hippie newcomers
then reflected the simplicity of an earlier time, and life was lived
with gusto. Residents strove to minimize their impacts on fragile
planet Earth. The creativity and ambition that created an alternative
society in this corner of the world was contagious and exciting. That
was the era of the founding of the Free Box, the establishment of
KOTO-Radio, the inauguration of many of the town’s existing
festivals, and the establishment of Town Park.
The small, isolated town of Telluride was special
at that time, surrounded by vast wilderness on all sides. One could
bike to Alta Lakes, from Telluride, via a four-wheel-drive road called
Boomerang, passing gorgeous beaver ponds where the Mountain Village
core now sits; from Society Turn, Last Dollar Road was a rough and
primitive two-track. Locals were, for the most part, bucking some
of life’s more commonplace activities, such as sitting still
and watching television. Spending capital dollars on asphalt and sidewalks
was not on the horizon, and, in fact, was publicly denounced. Tidy
homes with million-dollar landscaping designs were frowned upon. Skiing
and its ability to satisfy a hungry soul were the main draw for many,
who didn’t hesitate to put up signs on shop windows that noticed,
“Closed. Gone skiing.”
This particular era was uniquely an opportune time
to create a new town, with a new economy, and a new life for the existing
inhabitants and the newcomers who followed. Telluride was in a transition
mode. Even though the mine was still operating in the ’70s,
it was on a definite decline, as mining was hitting the skids. Many
of the new inhabitants sought sanctuary in Telluride, a home away
from home where many of life’s troubles, such as the waning
war in Vietnam, could be forgotten. Telluride became anti-establishment.
The development of a new ski area in these beautiful mountains would
bring the economic stability necessary for long-term viability. The
festivals would fill in the voids left in the summer season.
Of course, Telluride has changed dramatically over
the years. Now, economic considerations are primarily what drive many
of the new shop owners and marketers. Skiing, for many, is an afterthought.
Rarely are stores closed, except during off-season. The streets have
been paved and sidewalks built, tarnishing Telluride’s earlier
rough and natural look and feel. Most of the old homes built during
the mining era have been transformed into modern starter castles for
the next wave of new arrivals who apparently refuse to let go of the
urban values with which they came. Heated driveways and sidewalks
and homes with carports are the norm. Modernities are in; inconvenience
is out. Condominiums now rise from lots that were previously vacant,
as do many new faux Victorian commercial buildings on main street.
Of course, the Mountain Village now towers over the town, visible
on the Coonskin ridge that not too long ago demarcated the line of
wilderness beyond. Sparkling clean luxury cars and SUVs cruise main
street, many of them driven by members of the overabundant real estate
agent tribe, who spend their time trolling for moneyed clients who
appreciate the new, more manicured image. Water restrictions now focus
not on boil orders to make water potable, but on limiting car washing,
sidewalk and garage cleaning, hot tub filling, all luxuries of a luxurious
resort town. Meanwhile, younger and more idealistic locals, struggling
to make ends meet in the inflationary climate created by a resort-
and construction- dominated economy, scurry from one job to the other,
never really getting ahead, but fighting to stay in a land that is
still considered paradise because of its almost unfathomable beauty.
The Valley Floor, then, represents a last stand for
many: A last stand in the fight to maintain some of Telluride’s
more traditional, if not unorthodox, values. The Valley Floor is the
incomparable pastoral gateway to the historic mountain community called
Telluride. It’s what separates the real world from paradise.
If the gorgeous Valley Floor cannot be maintained as open space, so
that its ecological benefits to the entire San Miguel River ecosystem
are protected, then what on planet Earth is worth preserving? If the
battle to preserve the Valley Floor fails, won’t we also fail
at preserving and protecting many of the planet’s other valuable
ecosystems? If the preservation effort fails, where does the human
race draw the line on what is too sacrosanct for development? Are
we not doomed as a civilization?
At the same time, the idealists among us still hold
out hope that America’s vast wealth, represented in the case
of the Valley Floor by an exceedingly profitable and wealthy SMVC
and General Atomics, can shine forth and set an example that enough
is enough. Perhaps naively, we simply wish that corporations, too,
would play a major role in preserving the Rocky Mountain landscape,
as opposed to following suit with plans for another stale and destructive
subdivision-style development. Why couldn’t the legacy left
behind by Mr. Blue here in the Telluride Valley be one of conservation,
with a keen eye to the future? Or more to the point, how much money
does a capitalist need in order to consider himself or herself “successful”?
The mechanisms are in place now, whether through conservation easements
or tax write-offs, for corporations to hunker down in the trenches
and join the rest of us in the front lines for the battle of conservation
Part of this wish is to also have the real estate
and development community join in this effort to make a positive contribution
to the continued good health of the region. Why shouldn’t this
important sector of the community, which is dependent on selling quality
of life, take it upon themselves to protect a portion of the assets
that have helped reward them with vast amounts of wealth?
A failure at protecting the Valley Floor from the
bulldozer will leave many with a feeling of hopelessness and deep
resentment and disappointment. Cynicism, already evident by those
defeated in previous development battles fought over airports, runway
lengths, population densities, ski area expansions, logging, and the
like will be even more commonplace, as disillusioned Telluriders ponder
their next moves. These are my thoughts as Telluride continues its
battle to preserve the Valley Floor. Am I idealistic? Yes, but Telluride’s
beauty cannot help but stimulate hope for a better world.
I can empathize with supporters of development on
the Valley Floor who have argued that, out of principle, SMVC has,
as a property owner, the “right” to develop the property
as it pleases. But this laissez faire approach to community and development
has a fatal flaw: it smacks against Libertarian—and basic American—
values. That is, one has a right to live a life as one chooses, as
long as one’s actions do not harm others. If SMVC carries out
its plans, the town of Telluride suffers, as do all downstream water
users and the San Miguel River’s ecosystem. The development
schemes are scaled largely out of proportion to the land’s carrying
capacity. The development proposals, as presented to-date, are unsustainable,
energy wasting and natural resource destroying. The plans as presented
harmfully affect everything from water and air quality, to transportation,
in addition to the social and economic structure of Telluride. Development
of the Valley Floor will destroy Telluride’s feel as an historic
old mining community. The charm of former and beautiful historic mining
towns, such as Park City, Breckenridge, and Aspen, has been obliterated
by the newness of development.
It’s hard to distinguish their historic districts
from the numerous mega-homes and subdivisions. It’s time for
a new preservation paradigm. The Valley Floor can become the showpiece
for the new era of conservation, especially among Rocky Mountain towns
all struggling with similar issues.
What SMVC has underestimated is the intrinsic value
of its own land, not in terms of development potential, but in terms
of its environmental importance. And, as the nation and developing
world move dangerously closer to destroying the planet’s fragile
ecosystem, SMVC has also underestimated the resolve of this nation’s
more enlightened citizens to take a stand for preserving those things
that are vitally important.
In the end, doing the right thing will prevail. Another
mega-resort in the western San Juan Mountains is just not meant to