Can Aspen lighten up a bit here? |

Can Aspen lighten up a bit here?

We can’t help finding it amus­ing that the City Council contin­ues to fret over outdoor merchan­dise displays, as in clothing racks, boxes and other means of placing items for sale outside local shops (see related story, in News).

Is this really such a threat that it requires regulation by the already overburdened Communi­ty Development Department?

Certainly, nobody wants Aspen to turn into a flea market of old clothes, bumper stickers and cheap jewelry every time merchants decide to clear their inventory. But we hardly feel that such a fate is in store, given the fact that a pair of faded jeans can command hun­dreds, or even thousands, of dollars in this town.

It’s hard enough already for merchants to survive in Aspen.

If outdoor racks can help retail­ers sell discounted merchandise, then we say, ” Nice rack!” Even the nonshoppers among us will browse a rack of pants or shirts if we sense a good deal dangling from some hidden hanger. The racks add life to downtown, they add to the city’s sales tax rev­enues, and they help businesses survive. These benefits strongly outweigh any nitpicky argu­ments about clutter and taste.

We were amazed to learn at a meeting Tuesday afternoon that plastic and dry-erase boards are forbidden in Aspen, while paint­ed wood- and chalkboards are allowed. If this isn’t stuffy and uptight, then what is?

Council members told mer­chants that they’d like to see more creativity in the displays along the malls and sidewalks.

We’re unsure what kind of cre­ativity they’re looking for. Can you spell “micromanagement”?

A few years ago, a group of consultants was hired to assess Aspen’s downtown and what could be done to liven it up.

Loosen the regulations, they said, and allow a little commer­cial life to creep back in. They didn’t recommend flashing neon signs, billboards or a mass influx of toothless street performers; they just suggested, essentially, that Aspen lighten up.

Outdoor displays are a perfect example. What are we so afraid of?