Speak out now on Aspen’s future | AspenTimes.com

Speak out now on Aspen’s future

I am incredulous at the lack of business-owner participation at City Council meetings. Issues are being addressed that will affect the future of business (as well as the skyline) in Aspen for the next 20 to 30 years. Topics such as building heights and first-floor zoning are being ignored by downtown business people, the very people whose future will be affected by council’s decisions.

Council will ultimately make a decision (no, this is not an oxymoron) and from what I have heard to date, the retail business community may be disappointed.

Infill … do we build 42-foot (three-story) buildings with potential for a fourth, partial floor? A question that needs to be addressed is whether this will result in the same dilemma that we currently face.

The first floor is to be zoned retail, although again council is wavering. The second floor is employee housing. The top floor is free-market. Will there be enough money in the project for developers to obviate their need for charging unsustainable retail rents? If not, we will continue to be faced with retail rents that are not affordable in a seasonal, resort economy.

The result will be developers going to council and asking for variations to the existing codes to change the zoning, so they can rent to uses other than retail. As usual, I expect council will grant those variations and the cycle of high rents, diminishing retail and dissatisfied visitors will continue.

Helen and Tim want to keep our community free of rules and government intervention, thus they resist zoning for the street-level businesses. They argue that this is part of a cycle. Everything in life is part of a cycle, including decay. The question is which part and for how long.

In seeking a solution to the question of street-level retail, the previous council deferred to consultants and advisory groups, which is good, except that they were unwilling to accept the advice they sought and commissioned.

I hope that this council will have the strength to implement the advice they are given and that the community, myself included, are supportive of whatever that direction may be.

In the meantime, the issues facing Aspen affect all of us; business owners, employees and second-home owners. The opportunity availed us by City Council to participate in sculpting the future of our community (resort) is unprecedented. Dates and schedules are in the newspapers. Your future is in your hands.

Andy Modell

The Aspen Catalogue/Modell Associates

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