Pitco backs question on the entrance | AspenTimes.com

Pitco backs question on the entrance

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners showed strong support Tuesday for letting their constituents sound off on the Entrance to Aspen debate this November.

The four commissioners present unanimously approved on first reading a resolution that will place an advisory question on the ballot this fall. It will ask county residents for their opinions on the alignment of State Highway 82 on the outskirts of Aspen. Commissioner Patti Clapper was not present to vote.

The county’s question is identical to the city of Aspen’s ballot item for the Nov. 5 election. It will ask voters whether they prefer the S curves of the existing alignment, or a “Modified Direct Alignment across the Marolt/Thomas property.”

The Aspen City Council last week approved the simply worded question for the general election ballot. The direct alignment, also known as the “straight shot,” would pass through the Marolt/Thomas open space, the fields between the golf course and the hospital.

“Some of these residents have a deep commitment to the community,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “By saying no, you can’t vote on the transition in and out of Aspen, we’re saying they have no concern for this town. I think they have a right to be asked.”

She argued that a growing number of people who work in Aspen but live downvalley use the entrance to town daily.

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Commissioner Mick Ireland said the vote will serve the purpose of “reminding people in Aspen whatever decision they make, it will affect the people they depend on for their prosperity.” He said the needs of a large number of people entering the city each day should be considered.

“We have to weigh aesthetics and nostalgic concerns against efficiency,” Ireland said.

Commissioners also agreed that county residents’ tax dollars support the valley’s regional bus system, which is often affected by traffic jams caused by the “S” curves.

Both the city and county questions are advisory, nonbinding votes for state and local officials. Colorado Department of Transportation officials have said that with their budget shortfall, they will not spend money to realign the highway if the voters don’t support the project.

The final reading for the county’s resolution is set for Tuesday, Sept. 10.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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