Council to meet to discuss stand on the entrance | AspenTimes.com

Council to meet to discuss stand on the entrance

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

If the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority takes a position on the Entrance to Aspen, some Aspen City Council members want to make sure the city’s RFTA representative casts a vote representing the council majority’s views on the controversial issue.

City Councilmen Tom McCabe and Tim Semrau have called for a special meeting of the council today at 4:30 p.m. They want the council to authorize its representative on the RFTA board of directors to support the modified-direct alignment if the board calls a vote on the matter.

McCabe and Semrau have also proposed having a swath of grass across the Marolt-Thomas Open Space mowed so citizens can visualize exactly where the modified-direct alignment, also known as the “straight shot,” would cross the property.

“So people driving by could get a really good idea of where it’s going to be,” McCabe explained.

McCabe and Semrau together requested today’s council meeting after it was reported Thursday that the RFTA board has scheduled its own special meeting on Monday. The RFTA board, which oversees the valley’s commuter bus system, is scheduled to discuss a position paper that could lead to endorsement of either the straight shot or the existing S-curves alignment into Aspen.

“Whoever is the representative on any of our boards is supposed to represent the wishes of the council, if they know the wishes of the council,” McCabe said. Today’s meeting is to make the council’s wishes on the entrance clear, he said.

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Mayor Helen Klanderud is the city’s representative on the RFTA board; Councilman Tony Hershey is the alternate. Both of them may attend and participate in a RFTA board meeting, but the city has just one vote on the board, which is made up of representatives from the cities and counties that help fund the regional transit agency.

“If it does come up again, she [Klanderud] will represent what the majority vote on council is. That’s only fair,” McCabe said.

Earlier this month, RFTA board members unanimously passed a motion “to support alternatives that enhance mass transit in the Roaring Fork Valley,” but weren’t prepared to take a clear stand on the S-curves vs. straight-shot debate. They may decide to do so on Monday.

The City Council, meanwhile, is split on the entrance issue, with Klanderud and Councilman Terry Paulson supporting the S-curves, while McCabe, Semrau and Hershey back the modified-direct alignment.

If the bloc of straight-shot supporters on the council prevail today, they will direct Klanderud to vote against her conscience on the entrance issue if the RFTA board takes a stand.

Paulson characterized today’s meeting as “a power play to make the mayor vote against her will.”

Klanderud has been out of town, attending the Governor’s Tourism Conference in Grand Junction, but is expected back today in time to attend the hastily called meeting. A special meeting of the council can be convened with 24 hours’ notice.

The Highway 82 alignment at the western entrance to town has been the focus of heated debate and plenty of campaigning, as both Aspen and Pitkin County voters will be asked to choose which alignment they prefer in the Nov. 5 election.

McCabe said he came up with the idea of mowing the grass on the triangle of open space where the highway would be realigned under the modified-direct scenario after he and other council member pondered methods like staking out the route or painting the grass.

“We figure mowing it is a good way to do it,” he said. “We’d like to get the grass mowed as quickly as we can so people have time to see it.”

McCabe said the city Parks Department has confirmed no sensitive vegetation would be cut; city crews used to mow the former hayfield, he said.

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