Control growth while replacing decaying buildings
Dear Editor:An elected local official recently suggested (guest opinion, June 27) government intervention as the Aspen answer because “local needs are either provided by the government or not at all” due to the impact of the “feeding frenzy pace development on the local market.”Is there unchecked growth? The development facts: Residential growth in the years 2000 to 2005 was close to 1 percent per year, and in 2006 it is capped at 5 percent. Cumulative commercial square footage has been dead flat and unchanged for the last 15 years. Our lodging base in the last 10 years lost 2,000 pillows, and even with the addition of the Limelite and other new projects, no net gain has been made against the 2,000-pillow loss. “Scrape and replace” residential homes numbered 27 in the year 2000, averaged about 13 a year from 2001 to 2004, and totaled 19 in 2005 (statistics per city of Aspen Community Development).The government growth facts: Affordable housing has grown 2 to 4 percent per year, the Burlingame project is a net increase of 6 percent of total in-town affordable housing units, and city government expenditures have grown from $47 million in 2000 to $101 million in 2006 – more than doubling in that time frame.If one were to just go by the facts, one would say perhaps government growth is a much larger challenge to the town than private-sector growth, which appears to be stable. And yet increasing government control is the answer? We’ll be saved if the city spends even more money going into the movie, bar, restaurant and T-shirt business? Does anyone think for a second the government should have bought and run Stage III, La Cocina, and Cooper Street?Ironically, a few years ago the $100,000 city-sponsored national consultants charged with uncovering why the commercial core was “losing its soul” concluded that paralyzing local governmental regulations precluded bringing more life back downtown. They advised the city to allow some creativity back into the core, to allow private individuals to create viable businesses at dormant sites like the gravel parking lot behind Boogie’s. What’s next: Save the parking lot? We’ve always seen cars parked there, and we want to see the same gravel there forever?Quite simply, there isn’t significant private growth here. There is certainly demand for significant replacement of decaying structures, and many see this type of replacement and change as unwanted growth. There is no doubt government projects and expenditures are the largest area of real growth. What we really need is consistent city government with the self-discipline and foresight to control it’s own growth while allowing steady, slow replacement of private sector buildings and businesses that have aged beyond their useful life. The freeze/thaw/freeze inconsistency of local government just further fragments our already divisive community rather than allowing for a palatable pace of replacement that doesn’t disrupt our day-to-day lives. Tim SemrauAspen
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