Marolt: Is it really a community benefit if it divides the community all over again? | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Is it really a community benefit if it divides the community all over again?

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

The thing I realize about the "public benefit" that we all allegedly received from the developers of Base Village is that it is pretty much an illusion.

If by no other measure, simple math proves this. If the building we got in return for a decade of stewing over and living with this mess is worth the $6 million pricetag that one of the developers somewhere along the way placed on it, it would work out to a dollar-equivalent of roughly $3,000 cash to every citizen of Snowmass Village. I doubt I will ever realize that much value from this scheme to own and operate a commercial building in the heart of a project I never supported.

I would rather get a check for $3,000. With my family, the total payment would work out to $15,000. I think we could do a lot more with that money to ease our pain over this project than the town will ever be able to.

In fact, I am sure of it; whether we decided to tour Europe for a few weeks with the windfall or give it all to food for the poor to help alleviate some small portion of human suffering that we choose.

The bottom line is that an ill-defined use of commercial real estate decided upon by Town Council that will likely require a perpetual subsidy by we, the taxpayers, does not resonate with me as a personal benefit at all.

Had I chosen to be involved in the process, likely to no avail in changing Town Council's mind, I would have felt used and abused.

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As a non-participant who feels like I saved myself a big headache, I am disenfranchised by the process.

Let me put it this way: If by some hypothetical chance the town opted to receive cash in lieu of taking title to the commercial real estate it now finds itself the landlord of, and then sent me my $3,000 portion of the proceeds, there is zero chance that I would have contributed it back to support the project that we are now collectively doing. I would bet that same $3,000 that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Buildings serve a lot of purposes. One is to provide one of humankind's most basic needs:shelter. We are not doing that.

Another is to serve as an investment. By producing regular cash flow through rents and appreciating in value over time, real estate can provide the financial means to pay for other desirable things in life, including a rainy-day fund in the event of an emergency or future inevitability. We are not doing that, either.

Of course, buildings can serve a necessary public purpose. Our governments need offices, courts and places to store things that serve the public good and welfare. We are not doing this with our community benefit. Recreation centers, libraries, fire departments, hospitals and police stations are public structures that are almost universally supported by the public. We are building none of these with our windfall.

We haven't even targeted a broadly supported charity to bolster with our building. Instead, we are taking bids to see what might be out there. One of the criteria is the ability for the charitable organization to be self-sustaining. In other words, we want to lease our building out to the charity that needs it least. There is no specific intent of purpose here. How can any one of us get behind a cause so ill-defined and mercurial?

In many ways, this brick and mortar gift of community benefit has become symbolic of the continuously failing project that has defined our town. The gift, like the givers, has managed to divide our community once again, even in the most unlikely and unexpected way. There has been so much angst for so long over the failure of Base Village that the stakes seem unusually high in trying to squeeze every drop of satisfaction from a storefront for everyone as compensation for our community's lost decade.

We must ask the question: How can we accept this form of community benefit when all any of us can agree on is that it is splitting our community apart again? Perhaps that has become our sense of normalcy. It reminds me that we have been complicit in this debacle. Do we really want to be the stewards of a perpetual monument to our town's biggest failure? I, for one, want nothing to do with that.

Roger Marolt suggests we sell our building to someone who cares. Email at rogermarolt@gmail.com.