9.4-acre parcel is beautiful
December 7, 2005
In all the discussion of the Home Depot issue, I’ve noticed a word missing. It’s a common but powerful word, and its absence is telling for what it says about the debate as well as our community.It seems as if people are afraid to use the word, even though most would agree it is a major reason for their living here. It is remarkable that so many people are afraid to use a word when it is so simple, as if they have been cowed by some vague authority they would reject if only someone would give them permission. If the upcoming election is about anything, it is about voters allowing themselves to use the word and not be ashamed. The word is “beauty.”There are any number of economic arguments against the Home Depot proposal, just as there are several for it. It may hurt local businesses, increase local costs, depress wages, etc. It will undoubtedly increase traffic and create other environmental stresses on its site. It will create a large, single-use structure in lieu of smaller spaces that could be more easily reconfigured, creating a non-trivial “obsolescence risk” for the town. Most of all, however, it will be ugly.Notice how people react to this statement. Most likely they will laugh, not only because it is unusually blunt, but also because it is true. And not only because it is true, but also because it is thought not to matter – that is, that beauty vs. ugliness can never be a match for the more “serious” debating criteria of economic gain or loss. “Of course it will be ugly” you may think, “that’s a given in economic development.”I disagree, but in any case it’s a poor excuse for making a bad decision about this particular piece of land in this particular community. The fact is, beauty is why we are here, not somewhere else. We aren’t here for economic advancement. We talk about “preserving our community’s character” and “valuing our environment,” but the short version of these locutions is “it’s beautiful here and I don’t want it to be ugly.” Subliminally, at least, we know that this particular land, being the last open parcel within town limits, is significant for what it will reflect about our willingness to preserve beauty for its own sake vs. sacrificing it on the high alter of “economic reason.” But we are still afraid to assert that beauty is reason enough to reject this proposal.The best the proponents of Home Depot can do is tell us it won’t be that ugly. To be sure, the land is not that spectacular – it is not large, it is by the highway, and it is adjacent to yet other “economic” ugliness. But, it must be said, it has one of the most spectacular views in the county, and one of very few visible to drivers on I-70 for whom it may be the only impression of the Rockies they receive in years, or even a lifetime. To propose to fill that view with, of all things, a Home Depot and a parking lot, is a damning indictment of our imagination and stewardship as a community and citizens.If the aesthetic loss is not enough, voters should consider the simple experiential opportunity cost of this proposal. Is visiting Home Depot an inspiring experience? Is the inside of a cavernous warehouse an enjoyable environment? Is traipsing across acres of asphalt something you want to do more of? Is this going to be someplace you’ll hang around and take in the view? I don’t think so. But to vote for the Home Depot proposal is to vote for exactly this, and against any possible alternative for at least our lifetimes. Are we nuts? Or just brainwashed?Let the residents of Frisco come out of the closet. Let us say we’re here because it’s beautiful, and that’s not wrong, nor irrelevant. Let’s talk back to those forces that would make us embarrassed for this “irrational” value, and keep a spectacular bit of beauty for ourselves and others in the process. This isn’t hard, but it requires some courage. Beauty is enough. Vote “No” on Home Depot.