Part-timers should have voice
July 26, 2005
A good idea surfaced recently in Snowmass Village that is proactive, inclusive and may just become a model for other Roaring Fork Valley communities.It’s the creation of an officially sanctioned advisory panel of second-home owners to speak to the Town Council about local issues. Imagine that – asking the part-time residents what they think!For many it will seem almost taboo to give second-home owners a voice in town government. Hundreds if not thousands of upper-valley locals feel their town has been “stolen” from them by people of multimillion-dollar means, and the idea of giving those wealthy second-home owners a direct pipeline to the Town Council represents just one more step in the sale of the valley to big outside money.OK, understood.However, aside from the fact that second-home owners have plenty of disposable income, they aren’t all the same and they don’t think the same way. Second-home owners are not monolithic. In fact, if we ask a panel of part-time residents a question about, say, traffic in Aspen, we’re bound to get a range of opinions.So why not ask? We might end up with some new ideas and we’re not obligated to use any of them.Furthermore, second-home owners have long wanted a say in local decision-making, and this gives them that voice. The long-standing complaint of the part-time resident is essentially one of taxation without representation: “I pay property taxes and sales taxes in Pitkin County, but I can’t vote. I’m disenfranchised!”Of course, second-home owners do get a vote – exactly one vote – in the place of their primary residence. If they declare their primary residence in Aspen, Pitkin County or Snowmass Village, then they can vote here. That’s the law.Until then, part-timers are to some degree on the outside. Nonetheless, they are important community stakeholders and they deserve to be heard. They care about this place, they are invested in this place, and they should have a voice – not at the ballot box and not on the town’s governing board, but on an advisory panel to the governing board.Snowmass Village has a good idea here. It will be interesting to watch how the seven-member panel is established, the eligibility criteria, the recommendations from the panel and how, if at all, the Town Council uses the advice. Stay tuned.