Myrin showing why he’s lone wolf on Aspen City Council
The Aspen Times
Newly elected Aspen City Councilman Bert Myrin is just a few months in on the job, but he’s already shown a flair for rankling others, whether they are his fellow elected officials or those in the development game.
As recently as Aug. 24, at the City Council meeting concerning Mark Hunt’s decision to resuscitate his Base2 Lodge project, Myrin’s salvo about developers had some residents demanding that he apologize, while others claimed he had nothing to be sorry for.
“You can’t trust any developer in this town, especially Mark Hunt,” Myrin said.
After the meeting, Hunt shrugged off the remark. “I’m sorry he feels that way,” Hunt said.
The hearing on the Base2 matter was continued to the next day, and Myrin offered an apology, but hardly a complete one.
“I perhaps spoke too strongly about all developers in town,” Myrin said. “I think there are a number of developers in town who are trustworthy.”
Myrin, who was elected to City Council after triumphing in a June runoff over political mainstay Mick Ireland, said in an interview with The Aspen Times that he would not apologize to Hunt because he does not trust him.
Hunt, who did not return phone calls for this story, has shown a pattern of misleading the public and council, Myrin claimed.
He pointed to Hunt’s off-site parking plans for the Base1 Lodge. Hunt already has secured city approval to build the 42-room inn — rates are touted as “affordable” at $200 a night — in the place of the Buckhorn Arms Building on East Cooper Avenue. Hunt assured the city he had 15 off-site parking spaces at the St. Regis Aspen Resort that would serve Base1 guests, but Myrin said it is nothing more than a “paper” agreement with the city.
That’s because St. Regis has yet to modify its planned-unit development to allow Base1 parking, Myrin said. City Attorney Jim True confirmed that St. Regis hasn’t amended its planned-unit development for the off-site parking.
“Bert is right,” True said. “If there’s deal with St. Regis, St. Regis would have to amend its PUD.”
Myrin and True said there have been discussions that Hunt would instead provide the on-site parking at Benedict Commons, a 27-unit affordable-housing complex on the 700 block of East Hyman Avenue.
“But the community thinks that it was going to be the St. Regis,” Myrin said. “There is not transparency between the projects Mark Hunt is putting together and the community.”
At last week’s meetings regarding Base2, Myrin again criticized the city. He said the process has been flawed from the start when City Council granted multiple variances for the 37-unit hotel that Hunt has planned at the East Main Street location currently occupied by the Conoco service station.
Mayor Steve Skadron called out Myrin for his remarks belittling the city. Myrin alleged the city hasn’t kept developers honest over the years by failing to follow up on agreements they’ve made with the city.
“I think it’s overly dramatic to suggest that the entire process is unfair or corrupt, or that council, I think you used ‘shenanigans’ (to describe council), simply because the outcome you desire is not a majority opinion,” Skadron told Myrin.
Myrin was outspoken about Base2 because the city allowed Hunt to bring the project back to life after the developer’s planner Mitch Haas, just days earlier, had written the city to vacate the project.
True told the council it didn’t need to act on Hunt’s decision. By avoiding taking any action, Hunt’s withdrawal letter would stand and Base2 would be history, True said. But the council didn’t heed True’s legal advice and responded to pressure from some Aspen activists who urged them to repeal the Base2 ordinance, which the City Council had passed June 1.
It was a farfetched scenario that the council would repeal the very ordinance they had approved nearly three months later. Instead, they referred the matter to voters, an action triggered by a petition drive that had the same goal.
The council voted 4-1 — Myrin was in dissent — to send Base2 to the November election. Myrin wanted it to be repealed, but council members said the petitioners were getting what they wanted.
“I don’t know why this could be argued that this is a bad process,” said Councilwoman Ann Mullins. “We’re actually back to where we started and apparently what the people who started the petition wanted.”
Skadron said, “I guess I don’t see how sending this to a vote and letting people speak, just as the petitioners intended, to get this on the ballot is all of a sudden a bad thing.”
But Myrin told the Times that the council is showing a pattern of devaluing the will of Aspen voters. The Base2 ordinance, which allowed the lodge to nearly triple its zoning allowances to 15,000 square feet, along with other variances, came a month after Aspen voters passed Referendum 1, which strips the City Council’s ability to grant variances on height, mass, parking and affordable housing without a public vote. True had said Referendum 1 didn’t apply to Base2 because Hunt submitted its land use-application before the May election. Only variance-seeking land-use applications filed after the May contest are subject to Referendum 1, True has contended.
Myrin doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s just one slap in the face to the community after another,” Myrin said. “I think that’s what a lot of the people in the community are talking about.”