Marolt: Those weren’t the good old days
August 21, 2018
I got people reminiscing last week. Unfortunately, it wasn't about the good ol' days.
Remember the ski shop manager who apparently was promised a prime retail spot in Base Village to open his own place if he led a campaign to get us out to vote for its approval? Folks have been reminding me of all kinds of crazy stuff like this taking place when Aspen Skiing Co. and the Crown family were making gross miscalculations to get Base Village built.
Of course Base Village was approved, but the ski shop guy didn't get his prime space. He left shortly after the project stalled and long before it got going again, so I wonder if he feels like he got snookered. Maybe he was ashamed. Maybe if he suddenly shows back up in town, they'll make good on the promise. Ha! Maybe he even remembers who made it. That person is still around.
Then there was the guy who owned the Wildcat Cafe — one of the nicest and jolliest people you could have met in the village — except for when the subject of Base Village came up, which was all the time at his place because he would bring it up with every customer. Then he was a jerk.
I made the mistake once of admitting to him that I was against the project and he wouldn't leave me alone. The discussion became heated. To his credit, he didn't refuse to serve me for disagreeing with him. I will say, however, that I wasn't quite confident about what he served me when my hamburger finally arrived. He has since moved, too.
Who knows why regular people like this became so adamantly in favor of Base Village? Maybe the Wildcat guy was promised a prime spot in the new development, too. It was really weird how it consumed people and took over their souls.
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There were local business people and ardent supporters who claimed to organize a large group to boycott the local businesses of any villagers who didn't support Base Village. Can you imagine that? Talk about hunting good, wand-less witches with a lynch mob.
Then there was the homeowners' association president who typed up instructions and distributed copies to fellow second homeowners on how to change their voter registrations, as he had, so they could vote in the Base Village election and then change it back soon enough afterward to go home and vote wherever they really lived.
The lies were stupendous, too. Skico touted studies showing that visitors would stop coming to ski Snowmass if Base Village wasn't constructed. They scared the Vail out of us.
We can now see clearly how wrong that was. If there was any truth in those supposed studies, we would be a ghost town by now because, not only have we lacked a viable base village for the past decade and a half, we have had a huge, ridiculous, fractionally finished construction mess where one should have been. Skiers came anyway. We should have never second-guessed our own experience living here — it's the skiing, stupid. Visitors like the same things we like.
There were rumors about ballot box stuffing and Skico coercion on its employees to vote favorably.
Remember the town manager then, who seemingly came and left in the middle of the night? Don't worry. Nobody else does, either.
I had forgotten about all of this until last week when readers reminded me. It was a maniacally one-sided affair. Homes had about tripled in value almost overnight, and almost as quickly, many homeowners became geniuses. I am convinced the major factor pushing Base Village was the thinking that it could double again our already tripled real estate values. I can't see any other plausible explanation for how supporters acted. It wasn't just that they thought it was a good idea.
It was like it absolutely had to happen no matter what; to hell with ethics, neighbors, friends, town history and fairness. If it wasn't money, the only other thing that could have worked people up like that would be sex or crack cocaine. And it certainly wasn't about sex … as far as I know.
Anyway, those were oily and icky times around here. When you look back and see what happened in our friendly little town in the mountains, it's not so unbelievable to observe what a mess our country is going through right now. We lost our focus for a moment, for a buck, for a chance to join a wild, ravaging pack.
Roger Marolt believes Base Village has been the valley's greatest failure since the Silver Queen was lost at the Word's Fair. Email at email@example.com.
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