Thursday, May 23, 2019
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Spat

I’m not sure which analogy to use. Both will get me into trouble with friends and both are applicable but not perfect.

1) So two dogs, a Huskie and a retriever (both good breeds but both very different) cross paths in an open meadow somewhere close to town. Both are friendly and know one another. The first takes a pee on some sagebrush and the second follows with a pee on top of the first’s mark. The Huskie marks the fence post and the retriever does as well. Soon there is a classic pissing match all over the meadow. Trees, rocks, grass, bushes are all territory marked by both. Eventually both run out of pee and the meadow is marked as territory belonging to…who knows? A nose better than mine has to determine that.

2) Sometimes in school a group of friends can run afoul of each other. Two of the pack may get into a fight. The rest of the pack might feel uncomfortable. When the friends not directly impacted try to intervene, it can sometimes lead to defensiveness and wrong perceptions. The two involved might escalate the fight over perceived slights and insults that were not meant as taken. Each party might grasp onto one dark negative piece of coal and squeeze it into a diamond out of anger. The pack might split into tribes to protect a member. Sometimes the fences can be mended and other times the friends might part ways. No matter what, feelings have been hurt and damage has been inflicted.

Both analogies speak to a situation with the town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County right now (see page 7). To me it is a bit of a head scratcher. Disagreements are fine. Reactive emotion is okay. But this incident over a small proposed development north of CB has escalated beyond the issue. Both sides (and they are on sides in this one) have valid points. Both sides feel attacked. Both sides have made it clear the middle finger is in play. To most outsiders the two entities are having a spat over how to regulate some wastewater issues a four home subdivision called Foxtrot. To each side, it might be the Rubicon.

The town believes it is clear under current rules that the developers have to submit an application to them before any county review as part of the “201 facilities plan,” signed by both the town and the county in 1996. That state mandated agreement was meant to consolidate and regulate wastewater systems in the Upper East River Valley and gave authority to four different sanitation districts. Foxtrot sits in the town’s area.

The county position is that the 201 facilities plan is not clear on that point – and the county can’t make someone do something that isn’t definitive in the regulations. The only thing crystal clear is that two “friends” are having a disagreement over a contract. But this disagreement has escalated to a pissing match. As I understand it, some of it has gotten personal and some of it has broken trust between friends. Tribes have been formed and feelings hurt. That honestly will be hard to patch up.

There is some irony in that this spat is escalating to the point of heated accusations just as the One Valley Prosperity Project strategic plan is being unveiled. In that plan, meant to encompass the entirety of the county and bring us all together in a warm hug of kumbaya, the number-one bullet point under “A Framework For Regional Action” is “Support Regional collaboration.” The fourth bullet point wants everyone to “Leverage and connect governmental activities around the county so we align all our economic, transportation, housing, land use policy and investments.”

Reality can sometimes be an ugly snowstorm on a May afternoon.

Look, sewage service will be addressed and eventually the subdivision will likely be connected to the town’s wastewater system. But it is a little disconcerting that two of my friends have taken this situation to what appears to be a hazardous tipping point. Neither will like that I am even bringing this up. But both are focused on the precedent of the situation and that really does matter.

To an outsider, the topic is boring and the narrow argument not particularly interesting or important. As in most of life, it’s not a particular situation that necessarily is remembered and endures. It’s the long-term relationship that matters. Both sides should consider this. It’s not like the county and town have been best buds forever but things seem to work a little better (the Red Lady mine transition, the RTA, addressing backcountry issues) when they aren’t pissing on one another and actually holding hands.

The Town Council appears to have taken a step down. How the county responds could set up the next stage of not just this narrow issue but the next phase of this long-term relationship.

—Mark Reaman

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