The contentious debate over the proposed Salida Crossings development brings to mind two stories from my past.
Some years ago, I was involved in a planning project for the city of Homer, Alaska. The city hired a consulting firm that included a professional planner from Boulder. Like Salida today, Homer was beginning to grapple with the issue of affordable housing. I figured a planner from Boulder would have some experience with that issue so I asked him what advice he might have.
He said, “Communities who want to address the problem of affordable housing have to be willing to accept density.”
I remember his words verbatim because it was something I had never thought about. Once I did think about it, it made perfect sense.
A few years later I attended a conference in New Mexico where the mayor of Albuquerque gave the opening remarks. Again, I remember these words verbatim: “There are two things people hate: density and sprawl.”
It got a laugh from the audience. It also caused me to think some more and to learn more about “smart growth.” Once upon a time I lived in a cabin in the middle of 6 acres. Now I live in downtown Salida. I walk almost everywhere I need to go. I enjoy the vibe. And I view with alarm the spread of sprawl in Chaffee County and elsewhere.
The Envision Chaffee County project has shown that most of us don’t want to see open space gobbled up by suburbs. And yet the Salida area is growing, whether we like it or not. The question is how to manage that growth. Density or sprawl?
I know that density does not have to be ugly. The Salida Crossings project seems reasonable to me and in keeping with two goals: provide more affordable housing and reduce the demand to use existing open space for sprawl housing. I hope the project can move forward.
Anne Marie Holen