‘History will be the judge’
After serving six years, former Mayor Helen Klanderud said plenty has been accomplished but there’s much more work to do.There’s still a housing crisis, traffic is unbearable and construction continues at an unprecedented rate.”I can pull out my campaign literature for every race, and it’s basically the same issues,” Klanderud said.Klanderud worries about the future of Aspen, particularly the growing rift between the government and the community. She thinks it’s partly because of negativity in City Council chambers, fostered by the most recent City Council she served with.”It’s a pervasive negativism,” she said. “I’m concerned about the level of disagreement and intensity of it.”The divisiveness motivated her to run for mayor in 1999. The community rallied together in 2001 and 2002, but Klanderud said it started reverting back about a year ago.And it’s no coincidence that the moratorium on commercial development was passed at about the same time, Klanderud said. She was the lone dissenter on the moratorium.”I think the three moratoriums have upset a number of people,” she said, adding the nuances of the moratorium and the resulting land-use code amendments stole the momentum from city government.”The last year and a half dealing with almost nothing except the moratorium, it has had a very different feeling,” she said. “It’s sort of like stopping and, quite frankly, having gone through the whole infill process, it was a déjà vu of ‘here we go again.'”
Klanderud is big on saying “history will be the judge” of her personal effect on Aspen. But today, most observers believe Klanderud and her City Councils have been positive in many ways. Though many feel she’s too “pro development,” Klanderud doesn’t accept the label and neither do many of her former colleagues.”That is what people were demanding – new hotels, development … that is what she was elected to do,” said former City Councilman Tony Hershey, who served with Klanderud from 2001 to 2003.
When asked to list her top accomplishments, Klanderud points to the purchase of open space on Smuggler Mountain, creating infill housing like Little Ajax on Hopkins Avenue, revitalizing the economic structure of downtown through redevelopment and building bus lanes along Main Street (soon they’ll extend from the roundabout to Buttermilk). She also is proud of the Canary Initiative, a plan designed to reduce Aspen’s contribution to global warming; the plan is being used as a model for other cities.”I suppose the first four and half years I was in office we made a lot of progress,” she said. “It was good to see things move forward. Were there decisions made that the community wasn’t totally happy with? Perhaps. But I felt we were being positive.”Aspen resident Les Holst disagrees.”There has never been a development Helen didn’t like,” he said. “We are so lucky she is gone.”Klanderud said she’s voted against many applications, including the redevelopment of what’s known as the “long house” on Main Street and the proposed conversion of the Aspen Club into a destination wellness center.
Klanderud initially disagreed with former City Councilwoman Richards, as well as other board members, on the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing development. The mayor got a lot of grief for changing her mind on the project.”I had been against Burlingame but when it was clear that it was going to pass, I did vote for it and made a commitment that it was going to be the best it could be,” she said. “Burlingame Ranch was seen as sprawl, and even today I think it still is to a certain extent.”In many respects, Klanderud was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t.”[Do people prefer] density in town or sprawl?” she said. “It’s been said that the two things people hate most are density and sprawl.” She supported the Mother Lode and Obermeyer Place projects, as well as the redevelopment of the Limelight Lodge, the Dancing Bear and the Chart House.”The reason there is all that construction going on is because we actually wanted them to coordinate [those projects] and get it all done at once,” she said.
But she regrets a construction-management plan wasn’t approved before all the development started.”All this construction was happening, and it was super annoying, she admitted. “I don’t dispute that at all.”Her other regrets?”I promised to make Main Street more pedestrian-friendly, and it’s not,” she said. “The corner of Mill and Main … I am surprised someone hasn’t gotten killed there yet … And how nice would it be for the people who live at Seventh and Main to cross the street easily to get to the Hickory House?”Realizing that it is an all-male council now, Klanderud wishes that she would have had more influence on Aspen’s female citizens to get politically involved.
But what she doesn’t apologize for is the number of fractional condos that have come to Aspen.”The selling point of fractionals is that they will function like lodge rooms, and who cares whether it is the owner using their fractional time or whether it’s someone who walked off the street?”She does admit that more lodge and hotel rooms are needed in Aspen. That’s why she supports the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, an 80-room hotel proposed at the base of the Lift 1A. And the speculation that the Hotel Jerome could be turned from nightly rental rooms into fractional condos makes it even more necessary.Klanderud thinks if the City Council had worked more positively with the hotel’s former owners on their redevelopment proposal, then the owners wouldn’t have bailed out and sold to Elysian Worldwide LLC and Lodging Capital Partners LLC., which specializes in fractional condos.”I feel the [Gaylord family] did not get a particularly warm reception, and I am very unhappy with that,” she said of the council’s micromanagement of the project. “I believed they were genuine.”
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