TELLURIDE, Colo. This past winter, Telluride voters rejected a compromise measure that would have yielded some affordable housing for the 560 acres of open space on the edge of the town, along with some mansions. Instead, the town may devote $30 million to $50 million to preserve it as open space.
Seth Cagin, publisher of The Telluride Watch, continues to agonize over that decision. In the second of a two-part essay, he cites it as a prime example of how Telluride has become what he calls the "poster child for Shallow Ecology."
"I used to think that Telluride was smart enough to cheat its probable fate. Ten years ago, all of the indications were that we would become a haven for the very rich and nobody else. The pressures from the outside world were fierce, but we thought that somehow we could beat destiny by being smart. Our watchword was sustainability. We would balance our environment and community needs."
It was, he says, not to be. "Telluride is not much better than anyplace else in terms of our abuse of nature."
Cagin says Telluride has always favoured lower densities and open space. These debates were always characterized as pro-development vs. anti-development. But the reality is that those choices have foreclosed the possibility for affordable housing.
With no land available locally, workers will be shunted to other regions, but at a much greater cost. By forcing more commuting, there will be more people driving on roads, more de-icing, and bigger roads. And those things have environmental consequences, he points out.
"None of this is ecologically sound. There is a social cost, as well, as workers forced to commute lose precious time to more valuable activities, like spending time with their families."
Cagin professes great love for Telluride, having lived there longer than in either Boulder, Colo., where he grew up, or in New York City, where he spent his 20s and 30s. He likes Telluride for the reasons that others love it: the scenery, the proximity to public lands, and because of its wealth of culture, isolation, and small-town character.
"But yet, as I walk the streets of this town I love and proudly call home, I am sometimes overwhelmed with remorse that we have become so much less than we could have been," he says. "Telluride is still a great place, and yet, , often I find myself thinking: For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been. (John Greenleaf Whittier)."
Green with guilt
SILVERTON, Colo. In ski towns and resort valleys of the West, the name "second home" has nearly become synonymous with "trophy home" or even "gluttony." The New York Times, however, finds another aspect to vacation homes, a "green" one that is motivated by good intentions, guilt, and the quest for bragging rights.