Council: entrance vote stands |

Council: entrance vote stands

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A shorthanded Aspen City Council declined Monday to reconsider its recent decision to convey land to the state for the entrance to Aspen.

A packed room of citizens, divided by the controversial entrance plan, alternately pleaded with council members to rethink the decision or applauded them for the move.

After an hour and a half, Councilmen Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe both refused to make a motion to reconsider last month’s 3-2 vote to convey the open space needed to realign Highway 82 on Aspen’s west side. Only a council member who voted with the majority can make a motion to reconsider.

Councilman Tim Semrau, who also supported the land transfer, was absent, as was Councilman Terry Paulson, who voted against the conveyance along with Mayor Helen Klanderud.

The entrance to Aspen is the approved option to solve traffic-flow problems at the resort’s front door, McCabe noted.

“Be real. Be honest with yourselves. We don’t have many choices. This is the only choice we have,” he said. “I’m taking it.

“To tell me there’s not a problem at the entrance to Aspen is just unbelievable.”

Nonetheless, citizens who are collecting signatures in hopes of stopping the transfer of land through a referendum will not give up, vowed petition organizer Cliff Weiss. The group plans to collect 1,000 signatures, he said.

There has not yet been a clear vote on the entrance, Weiss argued.

“What is it going to take to prove to you that Aspen voters are not with you on this issue?” he said.

Klanderud urged the group to continue gathering signatures for a referendum. It’s “premature,” she said, to decide whether or not the measure will make it onto the ballot, though, legally, the ability to overturn a council resolution through an initiative has been called into question.

The council’s formal decision in April to convey land to the Colorado Department of Transportation – a deal previously agreed upon – caught the community off guard, according to former Mayor Bill Stirling.

“I think people feel outraged. I think people feel betrayed. I think they feel disempowered,” he said.

Though Aspen voters approved a two-lane highway and a light-rail corridor across the open space in 1996, public sentiment has changed, Stirling said.

And some voters expressed fear that what was approved in 1996 will morph into something they don’t want – four lanes of pavement.

The entrance is a “life-and-death issue” for the town, Stirling said.

While many citizens voiced opposition to the highway realignment, others commended the council for moving forward.

“We have studied this thing to death,” said one resident. “You’ve got a real traffic problem. You’ve got to do something about it.”

The plan to address Aspen’s entrance calls for rerouting the highway across the Marolt open space to bypass the existing S-curves. The council voted in April to convey the necessary right of way across the Marolt property in exchange for undeveloped property at the confluence of Brush Creek and the Roaring Fork River.

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