‘Government out of control’

Abigail EagyeAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen City Council members took a beating Monday night as residents from across the political spectrum criticized the state of development in the city.Dick Butera, former owner of the Hotel Jerome, calmly berated the council for its treatment of the hotel’s current owners, the Gaylord family. He said the council’s micromanagement of the Gaylords’ restoration plans drove the family to sell the hotel instead of renovating it. The result is that Aspenites, who already fear losing the last of Aspen’s history, could lose what the Gaylords would have preserved.Butera singled out Mayor Helen Klanderud as “courteous,” while calling the rest of the council’s actions toward the Gaylords abusive. That behavior, he said, drove away a family that didn’t need to “flip” the property but would have preserved those elements of the hotel Aspenites value.He further criticized the council as a whole for passing “vague and ambiguous ordinances,” such as the city’s infill codes. He cited a pattern of passing ordinances to correct those ordinances and then enacting a building moratorium to intervene when earlier ordinances didn’t work.”That’s an example of a government out of control,” he said. “In 47 years in the development business and real estate … this government … is the worst I have ever seen function.”Butera urged all residents of Aspen to hold the current council members accountable for their actions.Butera didn’t stay at the meeting long enough to hear council members’ replies. But after he left, Councilman Torre responded with equal force to Butera’s accusations, correcting what he painted as misrepresentations of him and the current council.”To have people come in front of me and blame me for the state of Aspen is very difficult to accept,” he said, noting that it was a previous council that passed much-maligned infill codes and that it’s the current council’s moratorium that has put a temporary halt to the undesirable development. Torre, who is running for mayor, staunchly defended the council, which he said is “taking steps” to resolve issues it inherited from previous officials.”My heart and my soul are into saving this town,” Torre said.At the other end of the spectrum, several citizens lambasted the council not for micromanaging development but for allowing too much latitude.Government watchdog Les Holst reiterated his familiar mantra to preserve historic Aspen. Holst blamed the shift from traditional lodge rooms to fractional units for taking the wind out of the town’s economic base. He urged the city to ban fractionals the way many coastal California cities and towns have done. He also urged the council to pass an emergency ordinance to protect the interiors of all buildings built before around 1920.”You use any tool you have to save these buildings,” he said.Local Jon Busch similarly urged the council to take any steps necessary to protect the city’s last few historic business, The Red Onion in particular. Busch was responding to news that some of the artifacts from the popular restaurant are already being sold.Klanderud asked Busch if he was suggesting the city use an injunction to prevent The Red Onion’s owners from selling important artifacts.”If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I think needs to happen,” he said. “I urge you … to take whatever action has to be taken to preserve what’s left of our history.”Community Development Director Chris Bendon clarified that a second moratorium in place in the city does protect the interior historic elements at establishments like The Red Onion.Klanderud cautioned Aspen’s citizens, and presumably the council, not to act on rumors, despite the anxiety such rumors may cause.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is