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Fraser doesn’t need a newer ‘downtown’

To the Editor:

Annexation is fraught with complexities. Personally, I’m against the current proposal, but I’m willing to hear the developer out regarding municipal water, storage reservoirs, unsightly gravel pits, and the possible community-wide benefits of annexation.

But there is one aspect of the plan — largely overlooked in this contentious debate — that is absolutely absurd, namely the idea that Fraser somehow needs a newer, better “downtown.”

For more than a century, through booms and busts, the town of Fraser has consisted of a downtown core where people shopped for what they needed. Originally, the street now dubbed Eisenhower Drive was the “main drag,” and old photos reveal a hopping block of cafes, theaters, hotels, grocery stores, druggists and drinking establishments. Similar businesses eventually popped up along Highway 40, but the center of town has always been, well, in the center of town.

Today, a Fraser family could grab their mail at one end of town, take a 10 minute walk and buy groceries at the other end. They might walk along Railroad Avenue and take in old buildings and rumbling coal trains. They could stroll down the Highway and ponder the history that’s rolled through town. They could take the river trail, eyes peeled for busy beavers. Along the way, they could shop for hardware, insurance, gently used clothing, fancy wine, hamburgers, burritos, tech support, web support, lodging, bookkeeping help, paint, audio and video supplies, vitamins, cold beer and much more, all without ever stepping into an automobile.

The developer is trying to sell us on some new green, walkable, probably “sustainable” development that’s good for the community, all the while ignoring the fact that old town Fraser is already exactly each of those things. Why should the town encourage a quarter million square feet of commercial space atop pristine hay meadow when downtown Fraser has vacant lots just begging for some entrepreneur to make something of them? Why should the town betray its own long-term plan for its historic downtown by agreeing to 550 rental units so far from the central business zone?

Downtown Fraser is already zoned for business. Empty lots are just waiting for a business. There are plenty of stores already open for business. You can argue that Fraser needs water storage, but there’s absolutely no way you can say it needs a new downtown.

Charles Clayton

Taos, N.M.

Fraser Property Owner

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