OPINION: Neglecting Allegiances to Community
By Christopher F. Leydon
Engraved on a bronze plaque at the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership are the following words:
Do what has to be done
Be tough, but be fair
Ride for the brand
Talk less, say more
Engraved in the mission statement of our Chaffee County Land Use Code is the prescription for our Planning Commission “to assist landowners in using their property to protect surrounding property owners from incompatible land uses.”
Our neighbor and former County Commissioner, Frank Holman, is pursuing an approval for a Mining and Crushing Permit to do what should not be done, being tough but unfair, is riding only for his own brand at the expense of his community and at the time of this submission, remains silent to his neighbors while pressuring a county administration to violate their own mission. In doing so, he violates a Code dear to the West and damages the future of his community. The purpose embedded in the Chaffee County Comprehensive Plan “is to preserve and protect the best agricultural areas and maintain a desirable rural and scenic atmosphere.” Mr. Holman’s Mining and Crushing pursuit is in violation of this mission.
I understand the reluctance to stand against Mr. Holman’s initiatives. Undoubtedly, he has been helpful and supportive to others in rural and economic development. But remaining silent in opposition to changing the character of our land isn’t about paybacks and allegiances to friendships: it is about neglecting allegiances to community, allegiances to the welfare of our future inhabitants and their quality of life; it is about opposition to sound pollution, sight pollution, air pollution and all the other pollutions documented with Mining and Crushing operations nationwide. It is about the recognition of one man’s efforts to change the genetic code of his community.
I understand the reluctance to read letters and opinions in the Mountain Mail. What may be published may be edited to a bias in discord wth one’s own persuasion. However, with scant investigative reporting, the underbelly of this issue has been kept from public disclosure. This is a small sampling of what you have missed:
1. During the first Planning Commission review, Holman and ACA projected the term of aggregate extraction to last 5 to 10 years. Two mathematicians in attendance quickly calculated the actual duration of the pit mining effort, using ACA’s own numbers, to be in excess of 40 years. As the public in attendance snickered, the Planning Commission listened with seemingly deaf ears and made no comment. When ACA was asked if their operation would respond to “demand,” their response was “yes.” Opposition to the permit easily outlined that it could trigger more than ten times the trucks per day than promoted by Mr. Holman and ACA. The transparent conclusion is: Mr. Holman has the goods and Mr. Holman wants to profit from his mineral deposits by partnering with ACA to pressure a Planning Commission to get it … regardless of a community which lacks any appetite for silica dust, disquiet and diesel exhaust.
2. In the third Planning Commission review, Mike Allen, chairman of the commission silenced all new public comment. Curiously, not one single previously addressed issue had been resolved. All who had previously prepared statements were denied a voice. The Planning Commission then admitted they didn’t know the extent of ownership of the road to the proposed pit or even the legal status of the Prescriptive Right of Way through which the road traveled. For all who wished to comment, being Silenced was being Bullied.
3. At the second Planning Commission review, Mr. Frank Holman’s closest neighbor, Devonna Faith, made an impassioned address under oath that ACA trucks were already rolling two to three times a day past her front door and pleaded in tears to the Planning Commission to deny the proposed permit because it compromised the health of her child, now crippled with respiratory ailments. In nearly the next breath, the Commission cited a sophomoric Wildlife Study and a County Statement of “No Impact”, which had demonstrably been massaged to include “wildlife movement and migration”, script not appearing in the Wildlife Study, to proudly announce no endangered animals would be affected. Devonna has since sold her property, commenting she “had not the finances nor appetite to fight Holman one more time.” Lesson: Humans are not endangered and don’t count.
4. Dom Gorie, NASA Risk Analyst for the Challenger shuttle disaster, addressed the Planning Commission to outline the risks of tractor trailer trucks negotiating CR140 citing load ratings, classes of trucks, radii of curvature for different rigs … all with maps and outlays. The Planning Commission remained deaf to his comments until he bluntly asked if they were willing to take Personal Responsibility for any accident that might ensue. Mr. Gorie’s address finally initiated a survey and traffic study that was promised open review to the public by the both the Planning Commission and the subsequent County Commissioners meeting. This study, now finished, has been refused to the public and classified as a “County Work Product.” An objection has been filed with the County Clerk.
The list of administrative abuse goes on and on. It makes for restless sleep.
I am not a man with a deep well of religious convictions, however, I was educated in a 1742 four room Quaker schoolhouse, sat in the same desk as Margret Meade, and like she, memorized scripture. During this time, the most sacred of the Christian liturgical year, I am reminded of the poetic lines of the Apostle Paul, written to the struggling young church of the Philippians, “Finally, Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever, is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. The God of peace will be with you.” It has and will always be my encouragement to protect what is honorable, to protect what is pleasing, to do what is commendable and to conduct my affairs with excellence. It is my wish that Mr. Frank Holman felt similarly and abide by the Cowboy Code of Ethics.