Columns » Outsider




So Dave Schultheis and the Chamber of Commerce want to put Pikes Peak on Colorado's commemorative quarter ... Excellent idea!! But not for the reasons put forth by its promoters.

You've heard the official line: Pikes Peak, America's Mountain! Pikes Peak, Sentinel of the Plains! Pikes Peak, where "America the Beautiful" was conceived! Pikes Peak, whose majestic silhouette guided our noble forefathers as they crossed the plains! Pikes Peak ... well, need we go on? Looks like a political slam-dunk for ol' Dave -- a feel-good idea from which the state representative can reap tons of much-needed positive publicity.

And just as a public service, let's consider the ways in which our very own mountain is an appropriate symbol for today's Colorado:

The mountain is publicly owned, yet largely devoted to private gain. A privately owned railroad runs up the mountain's southern face, while its north face is given over to a toll road. The summit is graced by a parking lot and a concession stand.

On Pikes Peak, power always trumped responsible policy-making. Consider the Hill Climb, whose good-old-boy board of directors managed to prevent the City from paving the road for half a century, just so they could have their annual day of fun. Meanwhile, the heavily used gravel road so polluted the mountain environment that ...

The Sierra Club sued both the City and the Forest Service, alleging that they, as the stewards of the mountain environment, had egregiously violated federal law (Clean Water Act, anybody?). And when the suit came before Judge Matsch in Denver, he ruled that ...

The City and the Forest Service had to clean up the mess, whereupon both parties signed a consent agreement to do just that, and then ...

They sued each other, because, like all perps, they don't wanna pay nobody nuthin'... so let the other perp pay!

And so, the road's still unpaved, the environment is even more polluted, the Hill Climb boys are still in business, and nothing much has changed ...

But despite everything, it's still a breathtakingly beautiful mountain, which, if depicted on our Colorado quarter, would put the other states' quarters to shame.

Well, fun's fun, but let's take a minute to remember Dusty Loo, who died on Christmas Day. Like thousands of others, I'll miss him. Dusty was an earthy, unpretentious, friendly guy, who happened to be our city's most successful businessman, most discerning art collector and most generous philanthropist. Ask any established local nonprofit; a lot of them will tell you that Dusty was their go-to guy, their bell cow, their lead donor.

Let's hope that a few of the dozens of city power players who showed up for his memorial two weeks ago step up to fill Dusty's very big shoes.

And speaking of money and power, the Red Rocks saga continues, with many a curious twist. You all know the plot line: Santa Fe developer Richard Yates wants to develop Red Rocks Canyon, while open space/parks advocates want to preserve the land; and Yates is fighting with them, Colorado Springs, Manitou, Utilities and the County.

If you've got a dog in this fight, it's an all-absorbing one; if not, it's an interesting exercise in how not to be a developer. Apologies to Messrs. Steve Schuck, Jeff Smith, David Jenkins and Fred Veitch, but land development is not prohibitively difficult.

You buy/option some land, you apply for annexation, you meet with neighbors/concerned citizens, you put together reasonable and appropriate development plans that, in a sensitive piece of ground like Red Rocks, balance the concerns of preservationists with your need to make a buck, and you move ahead.

You emphatically do not do what Yates has done: infuriate the preservationists, treat the folks in government like know-nothing hicks, submit incomplete plans full of apparent misstatements, and sue the entities whose assent you need to annex/develop.

You'd think that anybody who has developed property in a place like Santa Fe would know better. Apparently not. Indeed, thanks to Yates' maneuvers, the property has been effectively sterilized for the foreseeable future. How so? By suing the City to obtain water service without annexation, Yates has gained nothing -- other than delay.

As city attorney Pat Kelly recently wrote, "Final resolution of this litigation may take several years ..."

Meanwhile, no water equals no development. So what's the deal? Is Yates simply a bumbling novice, an unbelievably arrogant rich guy, or a cunning operator playing a deeper game? Beats me; if you know, send me an e-mail.


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