Aspen: Take another look at ZG
Last week the city of Aspen invited residents to an open house at the Hotel Jerome, where city officials shared some of their rough plans for the Zupancis-Galena (ZG) properties in the vicinity of the Pitkin County Library, Rio Grande Place and the Pitkin County Jail. Aspenites hate having policies and projects crammed down their throats, so it was politically expedient to share some of the conceptual ideas with the public.The strategy seems to have worked, because the majority of the attendees at the meeting expressed general support for the ideas shared by planner Ben Gagnon, who did most of the talking. We hope, however, that the city does a little more research before drafting plans for a new complex with tens of thousands of square feet of city-county office space, a new art museum and new digs for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, because a healthy percentage of the people at the Jerome last Wednesday were stakeholders in the plan people with something to gain from it.If youre a county staffer working in a cramped office and you stood to gain a new and more spacious workspace, wouldnt you cast a favorable vote? If you were an art museum staffer who feels the museum deserves a bigger public profile, wouldnt you support the move to a more central location near the Pitkin County Courthouse? Of course you would.Were not saying the opinions of the county employee and the art museum employee arent valid or important. But they dont necessarily reflect the opinions of the general public.So lets not mistake the results of last Wednesdays public Q&A for a scientific poll.Theres a danger in this kind of consensus-building approach to public policy, and this is it: The people who attend the meetings tend to be stakeholders, neighbors, policy wonks or political junkies. And while they all have a right to be there, they should not be mistaken for the general public.And those who read about the meeting in the newspaper should not assume that, well, everyone at the meeting liked it, so Ill probably like it too. Theres a whole universe of options out there for the best way to use these properties, and the citys rough proposal is only one possibility.If the city wants to know what Aspenites as a whole really think about the ZG Master Plan, then it needs to reach out some more fill out the plans with more details, hold more open houses and invite feedback from people who arent direct stakeholders.We appreciate the citys openness about the ZG properties and the willingness to take questions, comments and criticism from the public. We hope the public outreach on this matter is only beginning and that everyone will get another look at the plans before the city proceeds much further.