Letter: Slow, smart growth would preserve Fraser’s character
January 8, 2014
To the Editor:
National Geographic Adventure just named Fraser the 4th best "secret" ski town in North America, calling it a "funky, back of beyond Western hamlet" that has escaped the "usual mega-resort, condo-explosion treatment"…an "anomaly in the resort packed northern half of Colorado."
But we already knew that. Fraser is special for many reasons, including what it's not. It's not overdeveloped and bland. It's not too expensive for locals to build a life that includes home ownership. It's not merely a golf-riddled playground for the elite.
During the annexation debate, Mayor Peggy Smith stated that "a town that isn't growing is dying." I agree, but not wholeheartedly. Real estate development puts money in the town coffers and food on the citizens' tables, including those of my family, but that doesn't mean that all growth is equal, or even desirable. By Mayor Smith's measure, Fraser must annex until every available acre of land has a trophy home or liquor store atop it, after which growth will halt and the town will wither away.
There are other ways to grow. Cornerstone (Byers Peak, LLC) sought a variance to build tall on the outskirts of town, but there are many empty lots in historic downtown Fraser, including prime highway and riverside frontage. If Fraser is going to allow taller buildings, not to mention hotels and shopping centers, then it should do so in the underdeveloped heart of town rather than upon prime ranchland.
If fringe development occurs, then the town should cluster it closely together and demand that 75 percent remain open space. I miss the hay meadow that bulldozers transformed into the homes of "Cozen's Pointe" behind the Alco, but I much prefer that kind of tight development (surrounded by empty space rather than the additional subdivision currently planned) to lower density development scattered — dare I say sprawled — across entire horizons. Future annexation must preserve true open space — not gaps between individual houses, as with the current model, but big spaces that encompass closely knit constellations of homes. This will allow developers to turn a profit while preserving the views that define Fraser.
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The secret is out: Fraser rocks. Let Breck and Vail compete for "most skiable acres" or "best nightlife" or "most exclusive." Meanwhile, Fraser can build slowly and smartly, a strategy guaranteed to attract folks looking for something different, something real.
Fraser is unique. Let's keep it that way.
Fraser property owner