Friday, November 24, 2017
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Tension?

Maybe it’s the moon or Mercury in retrograde. Maybe it’s Trump and the national political clash or perhaps the feeling that things are not super-relaxing in the off-season. They’re slowing down but where’s the breath? Maybe it’s just me. Does anyone else feel the strange vibe?

Many in the upper valley are tweaked at the proposed 240-unit apartment complex slated for the corner of Brush Creek and Highway 135. The county commissioners are baffled at the reaction. Lawyers are piling up hours on every side of several issues from ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Unit) and Vinotok fire concerns in Crested Butte to coal mine expansion and royalty rates on the edge of the county. I know fall is a time of transition and people are switching jobs here and there as they always do this time of year—BTW, it sounds like KBUT might need another station manager—but it feels different.

Rents are up, salaries aren’t. Taxes are rising but opportunities to buy a free market house are dwindling. There’s more for your kids to do—but it costs a lot more to do the dance team, the bike team, the soccer team and whatever other team you want your kids on. Businesses can’t find a full staff. Working staff can’t get out for a hike because they’re working too much. People who are in the trades are building a lot—as much as they can because if they’ve been here awhile they know it might not last—and a nest egg is good. People moving to live in Crested Butte now aren’t working as waiters and lifties; they are making real world salaries through the internet or out-of-town jobs while choosing to provide a great place for their kids to grow up and go to school.

Tension seems to be oozing everywhere in the public realm at the moment. The tension in the room was obvious from people making a statement to the county commissioners over issues with Brush Creek. The tension in the room was obvious from people making a statement to the Mt. Crested Butte Downtown Development Authority over their desire for a swimming pool and rec center that they see in “less affluent” places on the Western Slope. The tension in the room was obvious between some Crested Butte council members and Vinotok representatives about the annual fire. There has recently been tension about alley paving, blue heron rookeries versus the idea of party SUPs on the Slate, tension about too much summer tourism, tension about which tax to pass for affordable housing, tension about annexation decisions, tension between north and south—heck, tension about afternoon rain showers in September. There haven’t been a dozen candidates running for Town Council in Crested Butte in a long time. That seems to speak to some discontent and a desire for change.

There’s a lot of stuff coming our way. The valley has been “discovered” by a new demographic moving here and by a new demographic visiting here. That results in change. Change might be good and it might be bad but it is coming and it is not without challenge. Challenge inevitably leads to unwanted tension. So we are left to deal with it …or we are left to leave or simply accept it and that probably leads to unwanted frustration. Newcomers want more amenities but love the character of Crested Butte. Old-timers developed that character and miss the more simple times but like some of the amenities. The number of millionaires and billionaires in the area is up, but local jobs with health insurance are scarce.

Not sure how to deal? I will say it was less tense on the Lupine trail and 409 this weekend than at the DDA meeting on Monday. Hearing the first elk bugling in the early mornings this week released tension from having to deal with organizing an avalanche of work. Saying the “F-word” in a public meeting was going old-school and released some immediate stress but probably didn’t help the overall tenseness in town. Sorry (a little bit). Just walking around the alleys in town was better than watching the Steve Bannon interview on 60 Minutes. Heck, nails on a chalkboard might be better than watching that—if you even remember what a chalkboard is—ahhh, change.

Maybe it’s just the moon or Mercury in retrograde. Maybe.

—Mark Reaman

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