Aspen Lift One debate to kick it up a notch
ASPEN ” The fate of the Lift One Master Plan now lies with Aspen voters, and residents can rest assured that a lively campaign is just around the corner.
“We intend to continue our grassroots movement,” said Phyllis Bronson, a member of Citizens for Smart Growth, which opposes the current plan. “We plan to do the best we can to represent what we think is best for Aspen, and we plan to have a continued conversation open to the public about why this is the wrong project for that part of town.”
The Lift One Master Plan is an estimated half-billion-dollar development project that would re-create Aspen Mountain’s western base area, at the top of South Aspen Street. It was created and recommended to the City Council by a 27-member citizen task force, which collectively logged more than 2,000 hours toward the effort between April and September.
The Aspen City Council on Wednesday was deadlocked on the plan, however. As a result, council members decided to put Ordinance 34, which governs the master plan, on the May ballot.
Now, the various factions will try to convince the public that their position is the right decision for Aspen.
“Our first order of business will be to tighten up all the language and discussion items we’ve had with council and that were raised during public comment,” said Bob Daniel, who represents the Lift One Lodge, which, with the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, are central to the Lift One development. “Then after those baseline activities are in order, we’ll tee up for a May election.”
While Daniel and his team had not yet determined a long-term campaign strategy ” he acknowledged a public information blast is likely.
“We want the public to know what the South Aspen Street plan is all about,” he said. “I think it’s more of what we’ve been doing, but also taking a greater role in informing the public. We want to make sure people are really informed with accurate information.”
Daniel also said the Lift One Lodge contingent will likely join forces with other master plan stakeholders ” the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, task force members and the city ” to get their message out.
According to Mayor Mick Ireland, however, the city’s role in any campaign is limited by the law.
“Once it’s a ballot item, the city cannot spend any money on it,” he said. “We can hold open houses and show people what’s being proposed, but you won’t see any mailers or endorsements. That’s not to say city staffers or council members can’t have an opinion, but the government itself can’t campaign.”
The current council’s opinion of the Lift One Master Plan is already clear: On Wednesday, Ireland and Councilman Steve Skadron voted against the plan; council members Dwayne Romero and Jackie Kasabach voted in favor; Councilman Jack Johnson recused himself.
“I don’t think I’ll do much campaigning,” said Ireland. “People have heard my opinion and they can make up their own minds.”
Ireland did say, however, that he believes the campaign won’t be as divisive as many of Aspen’s previous development votes.
“I think there is a lot of interest in the outcome, but it won’t be as dramatic an election as it might have been because of the time that’s already gone into the process,” he explained. “We have spent a lot of time developing a project that people who voted against it, like me, could live with if it were to pass. And if you look at Wednesday night’s meeting, it was much more civil than many meetings ” no personal attacks, no ripping the other side, no name-calling.”
But that’s not to say the upcoming campaign will be dull.
“We certainly intend to stay the course, and most of the people we spoke with Thursday said they are really proud of Steve [Skadron] and Mick [Ireland] for staying true to why they were elected,” said Bronson. “But they are disappointed in Jackie [Kasabach], who we thought was going to represent slow growth.
“But that’s our challenge: to convince people to do the right thing.”
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