Kitchen: It is time to revitalize Aspen |

Kitchen: It is time to revitalize Aspen

Janet Urquhart

Longtime local Dan Kitchen, a familiar face in past election campaigns, has entered the race for Aspen City Council.

Kitchen announced Thursday he would join what is now a field of six candidates.

A 25-year resident of the valley, Kitchen is no stranger to local politics. He ran unsuccessfully for the District 3 Pitkin County commissioner’s seat in 1996, losing in the primary. He also lost in a 1992 bid for a seat on the Snowmass Village Town Council and unsuccessfully sought appointment to a vacated county commissioner’s seat.

The issues facing the upper valley have drawn Kitchen, now a city of Aspen resident, back into the fray. “I believe I need to try again for elective office,” he said.

A self-employed window washer, Kitchen, 49, is best known as an outspoken wildlife advocate. He made headlines in the mid-1990s for sawing an opening in movie mogul Peter Guber’s Owl Creek Valley fence because it blocked migrating elk. The fence is now opened twice a year to accommodate the herd’s movements.

Kitchen rattled off a list of issues he has ideas about, including paid parking, the Entrance to Aspen, affordable housing and a connection between Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands.

A recent parking ticket brought him before the City Council to urge changes to the city’s system of paid parking in the downtown core. Kitchen advocates 90-minute, free parking on the core’s periphery and along Main Street, where parking meters are now in use. He also suggested issuing local workers a pass for 90 minutes of free downtown parking a week during slow periods.

Both moves, he said, would bring a lunch crowd into Aspen and revitalize business. Kitchen also advocates expanded free parking near City Market and during the offseasons.

Relaxing paid parking is but one of Kitchen’s proposals for bringing a sense of vitality back to Aspen.

The candidate calls for Aspen to market itself to a broader spectrum of guests than just the upper class and suggested Aspen promote events like a Single’s Week – a heterosexual version of Gay Ski Week – to draw visitors to Aspen.

Kitchen said he supports the do-nothing plan for the Entrance to Aspen. With construction traffic already at its maximum and tourist traffic into Aspen dropping off, neither a new highway entrance across the Marolt open space nor a roundabout at Cemetery Lane are necessary, he contends.

“I believe we’ve already reached the peak of automobiles coming into Aspen,” he said. “If we haven’t built it already, I believe we’re too late in trying.”

Kitchen would, however, like to see a new route for vehicle traffic linking the base of Buttermilk ski area at Tiehack with the base of Aspen Highlands. A road connection is a better option than a gondola linking the two areas, said Kitchen, who opposes the gondola proposal.

On the affordable housing front, Kitchen said Aspen and Pitkin County should do a better job of getting existing caretaker units – also called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs – filled before embarking on construction of more housing projects.

“If we could fill five out of 10 of the ADUs already built, we might not need as big a Burlingame,” he said, referring to a 225-unit housing projected planned on the outskirts of town.

The deadline to file nomination petitions for the election is April 6.

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