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Failure

Dear Editor:

I read last week’s editorial about David Brown with a strange sense of the precious and fleeting nature of time. I knew David Brown just well enough to know that he was as described, a man driven by values, faith and vision. He and Carol together showed themselves to be kind, generous, open, but still rigorous in their shared and individual passions. His unshakable faith in his higher power and in his fellow human beings was inspiring to me. His belief in the (still as yet unmet) promise of Pagosa inspired me as well. From Community Vision Council in 2006, to PROST, to PSCDC, to Board of County Commissioners in 2010. My own ability and commitment to contribute, I owe in part to David Brown.

The editorial describes the minority view of David’s vision and projects in Pagosa as being his “failure.” That the “lesson” for us, and the main culprit for David’s “failure” was not getting “widespread agreement” or “consensus” for his ideas and development plans. I disagree. I, like many others, was there, closely watching, supporting, through the entire process. David’s plans for seven small properties would no more “radically alter the character” of Pagosa Springs than the EcoLux Hotel, or Walmart, or chairlifts and alpine coasters on Reservoir Hill, only make us more or less attractive and vital.

Reservoir Hill No. 1, and other projects that progress in spite of extremely low popular support, show that power to kill or keep projects alive is in the hands of a very few, not in “widespread agreement or consensus,” or even based on sound investment logic. Success and failure here is not connected to popular sentiment, or simply following the development process.

It was not David who failed in Pagosa, but Pagosa who failed David, and other people willing to invest in us.

Whether you are for or against them, recent projects such as BootJack, Blue Sky, and TreeTops (in the county), represent nearly 3/4 of a billion (with a B) dollars in potential opportunity lost. These projects didn’t go to another competing community, they just died right here in Pagosa Springs.

The editorial’s “failure” assessment may be factually accurate, in that David and others did not finally get to build any of it. But putting the cause of that failure and the failure(s) themselves on all of the successful people who come here and “fail,” might just be misplaced. We need to look inward for answers. These folks have became cautionary tales for those others who are watching and waiting for us to change.

The “urge to engage in (large-scale) transformation” is not gone. And since the transformation that must happen first is not in the kinds of projects we entertain, but in ourselves, our vision, and our leaders, we do still have the where-with all to do it.

Michael Whiting

Editor’s note: You misinterpret the meaning of the editorial. Indeed, the failure was the community’s, but that failure was precipitated by a move to develop public consensus. Consensus for a project on private lands, involving private capital and energies, undertaken within the bounds set by existing regulations, was not, and should not be a factor in a viable, free market business environment. 

Second: Mr. Brown’s initial plans and hopes for development included much more than seven small properties, as did several iterations after that. Had he been able to motivate the move of the middle school to another site, construct a number of high-end commercial and commercial/residential structures on Pagosa Street, a boutique hotel on Pagosa Street, or the large hotel complex envisioned for the site of the current courthouse and adjacent properties, the plans would have radically altered the character of the town in ways not heretofore seen. For the better. 

This story was posted on February 14, 2013.