Mountain News 

Right to do any damn fool thing you want needs to be more expensive

Compiled by Allen Best

GUNNISON COUNTY, Colo. — Gunnison County has been wrestling with what commentator George Sibley describes as an endless "environment vs. economy" argument. Specifically, at issue are fireplaces and size and what Sibley, writing in Colorado Central Magazine, calls the "megamanors" of primarily the Crested Butte area.

Open-hearth fireplaces, he says, are poor means of heating, as Benjamin Franklin pointed out long ago. Moreover, they burn inefficiently, hence polluting the atmosphere. As such, the issue devolves to one of "nostalgia and common sense." The county commissioners effected a compromise, allowing fireplaces but requiring a $1,000 fee, in effect discouraging them but allowing them "in an economically oriented society where freedom is valued more highly than responsibility."

Size of homes was the second issue. Again, the county commissioners struck a compromise. They defined homes with more than 10,000 square feet as having a "major impact, but will assess a surcharge of $5 a square foot for every foot in homes of 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Thus, a 10,000 square-foot-home will result in a $25,000 charge, with the money to go into an affordable housing fund. That, declared Sibley, is a "relatively negligible amount on a million-dollar megamanor. But it can make a considerable difference on one of those do-it-yourself homes for someone who actually wants to live and work here."

These compromises were good as far as they went – not far enough, Sibley says. "The freedom to do ‘any damn-fool thing you can afford’ needs to be made more expensive in this economy, because of what it subtracts from our common wealth and natural capital." He proposes a progressive, or incrementally higher, taxes per square foot beginning at 2,000 square feet.

"We have historically made freedom far too cheap by auctioning off our natural capital at firesale prices, while deferring the hidden costs to a future that is basically here now," he concludes. "We just can’t push these costs onto our kids anymore, let alone our grandkids."

No pot of gold after 55 years in ski biz

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — Are there pots of gold at the end of the rainbow of ski area development? No, says Alex Cushing, who has 55 years experience in testing that proposition.

Cushing began building Squaw Valley from a one-lift ski hill in 1949, and by 1960 the resort held the Winter Olympics. Today, at age 90, he still lives within walking distance of Squaw’s chief base-area ski lift. He was recently inducted into the U.S. National ski Hall of Fame.

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