Aspen mayoral candidates share views on redevelopment of Aspen Mountain’s base
February 8, 2019
The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen mayor to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.
We are publishing one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, Monday through Friday. Last week, we published the answers from four candidates running for two open seats on Aspen City Council.
Question 5: Do you support $4.36 million of taxpayer money being paid to developers behind the Lift One corridor plan, which has been described as a public-private partnership to redevelop the base of Aspen Mountain's west side?
I do not support this part of the ill-conceived, unfair, concession package that this council is foisting upon the voters. Like many voters, I support the Lift One Lodge development, and a new lift and service/commercial areas.
How has such an impactful yet nearsighted two-project proposal gotten to an all-or-nothing ballot question? Is it an ultimatum implying that Aspen Skiing Co. will not replace the lift, and continue the Aspen legacy of World Cup ski racing without the Gorsuch Haus?
I support redevelopment and upgrades on this side of the hill, and I like Jeff Gorsuch and Skico.
But, I don't see this up the mountain, conservation zone change, paltry 15 percent housing mitigation, ongoing snowmelt and street maintenance costs as a good deal for Aspen.
In the beginning, the mayor and Councilman Bert Myrin opposed this part, and other parts of the development package. In addition, both council members Adam Frisch and Ann Mullins expressed major concerns about this cash pay-in from the taxpayers, and had additional council member support to continue negotiations with the developers.
Instead, this City Council, after being outgunned and out-negotiated on this entire Lift One package ballot question, caved.
We need leadership that puts the people of Aspen first. We need strength and leadership in city government to work tirelessly on Aspen's behalf.
The Lift One area, lodge, lift and race finish have been in redevelopment planning for years. Aspen residents have supported those plans.
We need to send the current development options on the ballot back with a "no" vote.
Then, get the Lift One lodging built with a new lift plan and a better partnership with the city. We can do something great at historic Lift One with respect for the past and vision for the future.
The city is not paying the developers $4.36 million in taxpayer money. Two council members wanted to decrease the initial development fees upfront; I believed holding the developers accountable to meet certain milestones was a better path.
I convinced the two council members of the latter and was the tiebreaking vote to send the Lift One corridor project to the voters. The agreement on our ballots only rebates a partial amount of the total fees, and only rebates these fees when the new ski lift is ready to spin, and the Skiers Chalet building is refurbished.
I believe this compromise is in the best interest of the community and provides additional incentives to complete this project, especially the lift, in a timely fashion.
Throughout this long process, the lift location has remained my focus. I believe a thoughtful development on the east side of the mountain is critical, a one-time opportunity that the community needed to get right.
At the start, the applicants wanted to have a development project conversation. I felt the vast majority of the community wanted to have a lift location discussion.
By asking the Gorsuch Haus to put its initial design on hold, I was able to steer the focus for all of us to a better lift location for everyone.
We should all be thankful to both lodging applicants, Aspen Skiing Co., and the city of Aspen staff's work with SE Group, the site planning consultants, to bring the lift down to where even a year ago, many thought was not possible.
Since I was first elected to City Council I have advocated for a partnership between all the players in the Lift One corridor, including the city, to come up with a project that would reinvigorate that side of Aspen Mountain while respecting the historic role Lift One played in Aspen's ski-town development.
We have that project now — a development that provides public access to Lift One, creates a ski corridor at the base of the mountain, adds needed lodging rooms, restores the historic resources on the site with viable uses, gives us a new city park for winter and summer use, public parking and potentially reopens Ruthie's Restaurant at the base of Ruthie's Run. The project is one that fulfills the long-term vision of Aspen as a world-class ski town and I have no doubt that in 20 years, if the project is approved by the voters, the project will be a valuable addition to the city, both for its citizens and visitors.
I do agree with this. This is a small expense when you look at the budget: $120 million budget, and we are supposed to get frustrated where $4.36 million goes?
This expense is aimed to create more prosperity within our city, it's not as if it is thrown away to some study, futilely wasted. Lift 1A is meant to further the appeal of our city, providing more lodging, restaurants and retail, in turn creating more jobs and bringing more business to Aspen.
I think the project has much that needs revision, with many aspects that can be designed to help the community thrive.
Through these finances of the city we ensure that we have a word in this development. With the use of thoughtful design and build, appropriate governance and community acceptance, the project could become a crowning jewel for all who visit and reside.
I will make sure that my vote and support for this project do not undermine the Aspen ideals but expand upon them, to create something we all can love and respect in our town.
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