Resolve against the mountain-sized masses |

Resolve against the mountain-sized masses

Aspen, CO Colorado

We would like to congratulate the Aspen City Council for listening to the public, and for resisting the continuing tide of money and redevelopment that threatens to invert the entire town.

On Monday night, Mayor Mick Ireland, and council members Dwayne Romero and Jack Johnson voted 3-0 to reject the Wienerstube redevelopment proposal, confirming yet again they have the intestinal fortitude to reject land-use applications that don’t fit the human scale and neighborhood context of Aspen. So it was with the gigantic Lodge at Aspen Mountain project on South Aspen Street (developers of that project have since entered into a collaborative master-planning process to make the project fit its neighborhood), and so it was this week with the oversized Wienerstube project at Hyman Avenue and Spring Street.

Ireland, Romero and Steve Skadron (who sat out Monday’s vote because of a conflict of interest) won election to the council amid an outcry from Aspenites about noise, dust, traffic, disturbance and a loss of community character ” all associated with demolition and redevelopment of aging buildings. Certainly many of these structures need to be replaced, and redevelopment, if done correctly, eventually will help Aspen remain viable as a community and resort.

But redevelopment can and should reflect not just the wishes of the developers, but also Aspen’s vision of itself. And the failure of the Wienerstube project was instructive in this regard.

Council members gave the Wienerstube development team plenty of time to change this proposal by reducing its size and addressing neighborhood concerns. The final decision was delayed multiple times to enable the developers to make changes, but, as Councilman Romero told the developers Monday, “You didn’t at all go to the neighbors and, in fact, you turned the other way.”

This is an example of a council listening to both sides and acting not like a regulatory agency but almost like a broker between developers and residents. To their credit, the developers offered a number of community benefits including affordable commercial space, but the 47,000-square-foot complex remained too large. And in this case, council members put the community first in rejecting the plans for the ‘Stube property.

We welcome this show of backbone at City Hall, and we don’t believe it’s motivated by an extremist, no-growth kind of thinking. Rather, we think the council is pushing developers to do better and to consider their long-term impact on this town and its residents when they bring proposals forward.

Here’s hoping the community gets something more ” a lot more ” than just mountain-sized masses and astronomical rents from future redevelopments. We applaud the council’s resolve.