A threat to Aspen
September 7, 2003
Why do we live here in Aspen? A few of us may have been lucky enough to have been born here, or come to this unique place with our parents. However, most of us came here by choice, because Aspen is such a special place.
There are other mountains towns with great skiing, but they are not Aspen. Other than the accident of location, why is Aspen so special?
Aspen is a real place, a place with a heart, and respectful of our history. This history is reflected through the stewardship that the previous citizens and their elected officials took to protect the central community values. For us, they have preserved the look and feel of our village from the constant pressures of the get-rich-quick developers, who want to destroy, rebuild, sell, and move on.
Because of the diligent of our predecessors, we are privileged to enjoy living in a real place, the genuine thing. We thank you, thank you, thank you!
Now our town is threatened, and we must circle the wagons. Ordinance 5 has passed the first reading at City Council. This 140-plus-page ordinance is a complete rewrite of our present zoning code. It was fraudulently named “infill” as a marketing tool, but in reality is a citywide upzoning. It will destroy the look and feel of our town, as we know it.
It is a very complex piece of work, impacting at least 16 zoning districts. However to summarize: It will allow for new buildings to be higher, wider, deeper, of greater area, more volume, increased density, and all at the expense of our views, mandated open space, and parking. There are even significant incentives to demolish and rebuild these larger buildings.
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In some of the lodge districts and multi-family zones we will see rows of tall, fat, dark, under-parked, new buildings replacing the existing structures that are in scale with our way of life. It will look like rows of military dormitories, forming canyons of our streets. The dynamic views of our mother, Ajax, will be lost.
Because of the developer incentives written into this proposal, it will happen. REITs will buy up whole blocks, bulldoze the existing, and do their thing. Each block will be a project, each with a cute marketable name. Some may even be multi-block. The results will be that we will have the look and feel of an overbuilt artificial city. Isn’t this what we were all trying to get away from, by moving to Aspen?
What can we do? Traditionally our first line of defense has been our elected officials. The two pro-develop councilmen, who strongly supported this infill action, were voted out. The present council should take note of this voter sentiment and just vote down ordinance 5.
If there are any parts of this 140-plus-page proposed legislation that are valid, then address these points, one by one in the future by carefully amending the existing code that has protected this town from opportunists.
The second line of defense would be a referendum to overturn the council action. Let’s hope that the council is wise enough to not let it come to this. This will divide the town like no other issue has.
The third line of defense is to continue to remove the pro-development members from our council and then repeal this disaster. However to do this, we could have to wait two years, and during that time we could irreversibly lose our city’s character.
The rational approach is to just kill it, and then amend our existing zoning code as needed.
Bill Wiener, A.I.A