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More Smart Growth awards would be nice

November 22, 2002

Congratulations are in order for the town of Breckenridge and the Wellington Neighborhood for their shared glory in winning a 2002 National Smart Growth Award from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Wellington is a housing success story in a county that needs more of them.

The Wellington Neighborhood is a throwback to the days when houses had front porches and neighbors actually socialized. Somewhere along the line, the automobile culture took over, and two-car garages became the main features of houses.

Front porches disappeared, and so did a sense of community. Then, what's old became new again. Architects such as evangelist Peter Calthorpe led a revival of designing a sense of community into new developments. The idea is to pave pedestrian-friendly byways, revert to alleys for access to backyard garages and plan green spaces for play and congregation. Then, people actually might talk to their neighbors.

The tradeoff is smaller houses, smaller yards and more density than might otherwise be considered. This is not a neighborhood for people who like to ride their John Deere grass-cutters for hours on end when they should be out hiking or biking. The concept of smaller is better becomes that much more attractive when the National Forest is your backyard.

Breckenridge elected officials came to embrace that vision proposed by developer David O'Neil. The Wellington Neighborhood resulted.

The other angle to this success story is the reclamation of wasteland left over from the nearby Wellington-Oro Mine and dredge boat mining. The EPA played a positive role in this conversion.

The first phase of Wellington will have 122 units. Fifty-four are sold - 46 deed-restricted and eight free market. More than 30 percent of the current residents are government employees. Twelve percent own their own businesses, 9 percent work in the recreation-resort industry, 9 percent work in real estate and property management, 8 percent are in the legal or medical fields and 6 percent hold administrative positions. Another 8 percent are stay-at-home mothers.

Eighty-three percent work in the Breckenridge area, and 10 percent work in Frisco. All together, 93 percent of the households are local - a unique feature in Breckenridge.