Ken Deshaies: Big boxes compromise health, safety and welfare of Silverthorne, county
September 3, 2010
There has been a lot of discussion of late about the pros and cons of building a Lowe’s and/or a Home Depot in Silverthorne. Hopefully, most people understand there will be a negative net effect on number of jobs once local businesses are closed or seriously reduced. And assuming their track record around the country is an accurate reflection of their business practices, the jobs remaining at the big boxes will pay less. The higher-paying management jobs will go to their out-of-state corporate headquarters, and virtually all of their money will leave the area, as well. But there are two issues that have not gotten much attention.
First is traffic. I am a member of a growing group of interested people called Silverthorne Neighbors, and we’ve been spending time doing research and trying to assess the effects of such huge commercial developments to small communities such as ours. We had been operating under the understanding that each store would generate in the neighborhood of 3,000 additional vehicles daily. But, were we wrong! Testimony at this week’s Silverthorne Planning Commission by Lowe’s showed anticipated daily traffic increasing by 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles a day! These are non-residential trips. Now take a breath.
One of the planning commission members answered this problem with a statement that, because of current traffic loads, she has learned not to leave her home until after 3 p.m. on any given day. Then she proceeded to vote in favor of the Lowe’s application. How late will she stay in her home once an additional 6,000 cars are added to the intersection of Highway 9 and Wildernest Road? What happens when Home Depot is also approved and opens?
If you’ve traveled through Silverthorne, especially Friday through Sunday, you know traffic at that light (you know, Wendy’s on the east, 7-Eleven on the west) can already back up several blocks. On Sundays, traffic heading out of town can back up to Target, or about six blocks. Add just 6,000 more cars and what do you see? All of Highway 9 (or the Blue River Parkway) through Silverthorne will be backed up through town.
The Town of Silverthorne may have the authority to vote in favor of or against any application contained within its borders. But should it? When a town decision has serious ramifications for it neighboring communities – in this case neighborhoods in the county, but abutting town boundaries – should it not take into consideration the concerns of those neighbors? In the case of Silverthorne, adjoining neighborhoods not within town limits include Wildernest, Mesa Cortina, South Forty, Hamilton Creek, Blue River Ranch Lakes Estates and Sage Creek. Our neighbors contribute considerably to the sales tax revenues of the town. Wildernest and Mesa Cortina alone have about 2,800 housing units, and at peak occupancy, that means around 10,000 people.
So you live in Wildernest or Mesa Cortina, and Lowe’s and Home Depot are a reality. First, you need to navigate through the traffic snarl at Highway 9 and Wildernest Road. Then, you will have as many as four stoplights to navigate as you drive by these intersections to get to your home (I understand the prospect of roundabouts has already been rejected, even though they would be much safer). As people learn of this problem, particularly potential buyers, what do you think this will do to your property values? No matter what the economy, how much lower could you afford the value of your property to go? Is 20 percent a figure you could live with? There are safety concerns as well, with this many cars added to the roads.
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The town council has a mandate to calculate the health, safety and welfare of its decisions. Based on our research, and the opinions of a growing grass roots cadre of citizens of the town and of the county, all three of these are being violated by plans for the big boxes.
It’s very important the effects on all neighbors be considered. Let’s hope the council decides to have some respect for its neighbors. If the council does not feel they can legitimately deny the applications of these two corporations, then we ask that the council at least impose an 18-month moratorium on its decision while these very important issues are evaluated further. If it cannot see fit to do that, then please let the people decide in a vote – of Silverthorne citizens and of its neighbors.