Western Slope Round Up

Here’s a glimpse of what happened west of the Continental Divide last week.

While growth charges ahead, Basalt says whoa

Saying growth has had a "negative impact upon the peace, health, safety, and general well-being of residents," the Basalt Town Council has voted to cap any further new housing developments until March of 2009.

Basalt’s moratorium will exclude projects that offer affordable housing, but with Aspen only a few miles up the road, "affordable housing" in Basalt translates to a postage-stamp sized residence going for around $700,000.

During the building blackout period, the town proposes to change its land-use code to encourage more employee housing and to upgrade its growth management plan, the Aspen Daily News reports.

Basalt leaders will consider exemptions to its moratorium, including appeals based on financial reprieves — in other words, on how loud a builder will whine.

Rural electric elections all charged up

Board elections for rural electric associations can be a real snooze, but this year, several board members across the Western Slope are actually facing challengers.

Down in Cortez in the southwest part of the state, an Empire Electric District 7 incumbent, 74-year old John Porter, is facing the youngster, 66-year-old Gary Norton, because of concerns over the association’s economic viability. At Holy Cross Energy, which services portions of the Aspen, Vail and Parachute area, two newcomers, backed by Aspen Ski Co. for their commitment to renewable energy, have jumped into the race against two long-time incumbent board members.

In the Gunnison Electric Association board race, two out of three elections will have challengers as well, again over the issue of coal-powered energy versus renewable sources. The winners in all of these elections will be determined this month.

With this much interest in electrical association board elections, can you imagine what it will be like for the general election this fall?

Solar panels charges dropped

Speaking of electricity, Durango has found a way to encourage homeowners to install solar panels on their homes: charge less.

Durango officials have proposed reducing building permit fees to only $20 if a homeowner or builder wants to install solar panels. Normally, the fee is based upon the value of the project, ranging around $500 per installation.

City officials said the fee reduction was part of the city’s sustainability (or "sun-stainability") plan.

God in charge of housing for the poor

In Craig, temporary housing facilities are essential for people in transition, and so far, the only organizations stepping up to try to meet those needs are local churches. Already, religious organizations spend thousands of dollars to assist people with emergency shelter.

Patricia Jones, executive director of Love INC of the Yampa Valley, gathered 20 local pastors and nonprofit representatives for a meeting to address the problem of providing short-term housing, as noted in the Craig Daily Press:

“Just helping people is a Christian mandate,” she said (to the group). God “wants us, as Christians, to love our neighbors. If you love them, you’re going to help them.”

Jones believes the churches will favorably answer her request if they receive authorization from a higher power. “If God tells them to do it, it’s going to happen,” she said.

The ad-hoc group working on building a transitional housing facility for the Craig area will continue to meet, no doubt with God’s blessing.

Can a driver be charged for going too slow?

Let’s face it, it’s hard eluding the cops when you are driving slower than a person walks.

As detailed by the Cortez Journal, a Bayfield man was Tased and then arrested by the Montezuma sheriff’s officer after a 25-minute "very low-speed chase" ranging from 3 to 5 miles per hour.

Law enforcement officers were first alerted to the driver, Samuel Luna, 62, when he parked at a stop sign on Highway 491 waiting for traffic to clear. However, a sheriff’s deputy observed, there wasn’t any traffic on the road. Then Luna zoomed off at a snail’s pace and wasn’t pulled over until he ran over some tire spikes.

Officers found the driver was harder to stop than his car because they eventually had to subdue him. The driver was charged with eluding police and resisting arrest.