For S-curve supporters, the issue is location, location, location | AspenTimes.com

For S-curve supporters, the issue is location, location, location

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Some of the most generous contributors for the Citizens for a Small Town Entrance campaign live near the town’s S-curves, a point that neither side of the Entrance to Aspen debate disputes.

But whether that group of contributors is unfairly influencing the campaign is something the two sides disagree about.

Roughly $8,000 of the $16,910 the Citizens have raised in their first month and a half of campaigning was donated by residents who live near the S-curves, which could be replaced by a modified direct alignment of Highway 82 across the Marolt and Thomas properties.

Aspen City Councilman Tom McCabe said he thinks the group’s disproportionate donations from residents nearest the S-curves are legal, but maybe not ethical.

“I understand their concern ? it’s a legitimate economic concern,” he said. “When things are displaced by a highway, the highway department mitigates [the impact] to the best of their ability. In this case they will take it even a step further to mitigate.”

McCabe said the building process would include features such as screening, vegetation and berming for the surrounding neighborhood, and that the Colorado Department of Transportation knows that Aspen “expects higher mitigation measures than in most communities.”

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But he criticizes the residents in that area for donating large amounts of money in order to sway public opinion.

“They are throwing a great deal of money at manipulating public opinion to the deterrent of our regional transportation network, and I’m sitting here going, ‘Is that right?'” McCabe said. “It’s legal, but is it ethical?”

Bert Myrin, a member of the Citizens for a Small Town Entrance, said the group’s donors don’t have a NIMBY attitude toward the entrance, since around 80 other less-generous donors come from all over town.

“I don’t think the dollar amounts are necessarily important. The fact that it’s $20 here and $10 there speaks volumes as to the community support,” Myrin said.

And he said he receives correspondence every day from citizens who say they cannot donate money but are willing to lend their time volunteering with the group.

“We have more funding from people who don’t live in that area, but it took more people to get it ? more volume,” he said. “You can’t expect everyone in the community to put in $1,000 toward campaigning. I put in $20, the mayor put in $100, but not everyone has the wherewithal to do that.”

Myrin noted that of contributions from the opposing campaign, known as EASE (Efficient And Safe Entrance), two of the four donations came from people who live near the S-curves. Of the $700 the group has collected, that’s $350 from the affected neighborhood.

The group’s two other supporters are McCabe and fellow Councilman Tim Semrau.

“Aside from the councilmen, 100 percent of their supporters would be financially impacted [by the project],” Myrin said. “To me the $17,000 [raised] is one thing, but when I go to my mailbox every day and get letters with a handwritten note from people but no money, that says a lot. I know that person is going to go vote, because they took the time to write a letter.”