A new Gilded Age? | AspenTimes.com

A new Gilded Age?

Dear Editor:Once referred to as Aspen’s “White House” for hosting community leaders speaking to community values, it seems the reconstructed Paepcke house is set to lead Aspen farther down the path toward a new Gilded Age.Out of the Gilded Age came the American mania for water-intensive bluegrass lawns requiring 36 inches per year of water, a particularly obnoxious artifice in climates like ours, where less than 10 inches of rain falls during the growing season. Now it seems that similar values have led us to the creation of secret passageways between a mansion and a lake, à la Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. One can’t simply walk out of the house and go to the pool. A private tunnel complete with glass-enclosed stairway is required, presumably for the convenience of partygoers who want to be spared exposure to the elements en route to a pool and deck venue.The anything-goes self indulgence now so much in evidence means visitors to Hallam Lake will be able to enjoy a glass and steel tower set back about 17 feet from the edge of the bluff surrounding the nature area. Presumably, this little tower will be lighted to serve guests visiting the outdoor pool at night and to make known to all species at Hallam Lake that humans will do whatever they can do at whatever cost.This is in spite of the best intentions in the city’s much-abused land-use code: (26.435.010 (D):”Development in this area shall be subject to heightened review so as to reduce noise and visual impacts on the nature preserve, maintain views to and from the nature preserve, and ensure the aesthetic and historical integrity of Hallam Lake and the nature preserve.”Perhaps one measly glass tower above the lake serving one heated swimming pool at 8,000 feet of altitude wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the competitive nature of the sport of conspicuous consumption. As Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago, the emergence of a display of conspicuous consumption may not be as dangerous as the competition that ensues, as rivals attempt to outdo one another in demonstrating what can be done (rather than what should be done). I do not know whose idea this was nor do I know the property owner(s), but I would ask that all concerned think about taking a few steps in the outdoors on the way to the pool rather than embarking on the first of what could be many glass and steel additions to the Hallam Lake view plane.Thank you.Mick IrelandAspen

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