Citizen adds more survey results to mix | AspenTimes.com

Citizen adds more survey results to mix

Abigail Eagye

In recent weeks, a series of city-sponsored meetings and a mysterious phone survey have inundated the City Council with information on what people think about Aspen. Now they can add another source of information to the fray.Historic preservationist Les Holst distributed a survey in June with the help of the White Shirts group that has been pressuring the City Council to put the brakes on development. “I don’t find any inconsistencies between what I learned at [the city’s meetings] and Les’ survey,” said City Councilman Jack Johnson.”Is this valuable? Yeah,” Johnson said of Holst’s survey. “We get an idea what these particular people at Food and Wine thought.”More than 100 people returned Holst’s survey, with handwritten responses to about a half a dozen questions. Results have not been compiled, so Johnson said he couldn’t discern specific trends. But he did note that many respondents appeared to prefer “older small lodges” or “historic hotels” versus “newer luxury condos,” “Ritz-type contemporary lodging” or “time share hotels.”Holst is on a mission to save all things historic in Aspen, and when it comes to historic preservation, his philosophy is, “You never let anything go. … To me, any [Historic Preservation Commission] that has ever let a historic property be de-listed is not a good HPC.”What’s complicated for people to get is that the value of Aspen is the character of Aspen,” he said, and the only way to keep that character is through historic preservation. “We need a good council that understands historic preservation in this town.”Holst is critical, but not overly critical, of the current City Council.”They’re learning,” he said. “The fact that they put the moratorium in effect says they know something’s wrong. They just haven’t figured out what it is.”And it’s up to the citizens to tell them, he said.”I was hoping the questionnaire might point them in the right direction,” he said.Johnson said he’s sympathetic to Holst’s point of view, and he considers himself essentially on the same side of the fence. While he’s not in favor of making all historic properties untouchable, Johnson said he would support stricter codes than those in effect.Although Johnson said he didn’t learn anything new from Holst’s survey, except that he “thought it was interesting how many people talked about pretentiousness,” Johnson supported the idea of another poll.”I think we’re survey happy these days,” he said. “But it’s good. We’ll find out what people think.”Johnson was far more supportive of Holst’s questionnaire than he was of an anonymous phone survey several weekends ago that left many residents with more questions than answers.”If someone has paid for a survey but doesn’t have the balls to come out and say [who they are],” he said, “how can I give any validity to it?”Johnson said that the survey’s questions were not only misleading but “out and out lie[s].””If I were just an average reader without any knowledge … of the controversy,” he said, “I would think that the city had actually proposed certain changes to the land-use code.”The council has yet to formally propose any code changes.Additionally, Johnson was dismayed that the company conducting the poll misrepresented the survey as being a product of the “Aspen Planning Commission.” There is no such entity, although Aspen does have a “planning and zoning” commission. The city was not involved in the phone survey.The Connections Group, a Seattle-based company commissioned to do the survey on behalf of the mystery sponsors, ran an advertisement in the July 31 issue of The Aspen Times stating that “When … surveyors were leaving callback messages, a few incorrectly identified the survey as being done on behalf of the City Planning Commission.”Johnson said the misrepresentation went beyond callback messages. He is among a number of people who asked interviewers directly who was conducting the poll and was told the “Aspen Planning Commission.””They were lying to people,” he said. “I put a lot more faith in Les’ survey than that phone survey.”It remains to be seen how the council will act on the influx of survey information. Holst said his hope is that when the moratorium is over, “City Council will cancel the infill and re-evaluate their approach to historic preservation.”Johnson said, “I share many of the sentiments [in Holst’s survey]. I’m sure it has some validity, [but] I couldn’t draw any conclusions from [it].”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com