November 23, 2009
It has been interesting reading the news stories about the historic preservation task force. It reminds me of the story about eight blind men trying to describe an elephant – all different.
I think I will share part of my experience with the task force. Historic preservation sounded good. A chance to maybe solve a few problems, and help the community stay on track for the future. About the second week of the task force I realized that we had about as much chance of achieving consensus as Obama had doing the same with health care.
I partially blame City Council for their selections for the group. You would think that a group working on preservation would have mostly preservationists, instead of being almost split down the middle with various attorneys, developers, etc. on one side and preservationists on the other. What took us about 16 months to accomplish was setting up the basis for a great compromise, where I think we could have vanished Ordinance 48, saved some of the best buildings with great incentives, and then with an overlay protected neighborhoods from some of the extraordinarily bad buildings being built with no reference to compatible scale and massing.
This would have had the city look at revising land-use codes, the council not granting variances that violated the Aspen Area Community Plan, etc. What really happened was the anti-involuntary group sandbagged the task force by not even being willing to acknowledge the work that had been done, or the votes taken by the task force. (I do feel that there were several good, caring individuals in this voluntary group, and it is a shame that all of us couldn’t have worked together.)
Then they presented a minority report that was proactive gibberish, had nothing to do with preservation, but took us two steps backward. What I resent was the dishonesty of the process. We could have addressed voluntary versus involuntary the first month, and then got on with the job of protecting our historic community in a way that would have worked for everyone.
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We have become a strangely divided community, and I don’t know what the answer is. Our property is valuable not because we are smart, but because those who came before us managed to preserve our heritage for us. Can we ever get from I and Me, to Us and We? Our future probably depends on that.