There ain’t no Mother Lode |

There ain’t no Mother Lode

Why would the city buy an overpriced restaurant for a mythical Wheeler expansion (NO ONE has a clue what it could be used for) with money needed for other purposes?

Because it can?

I’ve heard three reasons to buy the Mother Lode.

1. To keep it out of the free market and in the hands of the government.

2. In case years from now we figure out what we might need it for.

3. Because it’s for sale and this is our one chance to own it. Keep in mind the Mother Lode is historically protected, which means whoever owns it (including the city) MUST at a minimum preserve the historic front half of the building on this small 6,000-square-foot lot.

Additionally, any other expansion on the Mother Lode lot must be approved by our Historic Commission and limited in scope to be compatible with the historic building. The best case is only half the lot is usable, and limited in scope due to historic considerations.

The city already owns a 6,000-square-foot empty lot next to the Wheeler today, which could probably hold whatever expansion we might eventually determine we need.

Common sense would suggest we DECIDE what we need at the Wheeler, determine if the lot we already own could accommodate it, figure out how to pay for it, and then look at other alternatives if necessary. It’s just plain silliness to spend millions on a restaurant and then figure out if you need it.

I would suggest it is 10 times more important to reserve the $3.25 million suggested for the restaurant purchase to pay for a Wheeler expansion we determine we actually need on the lot we already own directly to the west.

Now I understand many citizens feel government ownership “saves” the restaurant from the evils of the free market. Really, does anyone think for a moment the government, in all its restaurant wisdom, will possibly do anything to make improvements? Remodel the restaurant to make it a happening 21st century place? Know what to do over time to keep the restaurant functioning? No way, it will operate as is for a decade losing a little bit more money each year.

If the restaurant remains in the free market you can be sure who ever buys it will figure out how to make the restaurant successful. We have severe city land use and historic codes to keep the building compatible with the rest of town. The city doesn’t have to resort to ownership to freeze building and restaurants in time.

The Mother Lode has been available for several years, it undoubtedly will be for sale in the future, and there is absolutely no doubt that the city can obtain it if there is ever a real, identifiable need. Real estate empire by default is not the appropriate arena of city government.

Please impose fiscal responsibility on City Council by voting no on the Mother Lode. By the way, the city already owns one restaurant (Bentley’s) serving the Wheeler area. Isn’t that enough?

Tim Semrau

Aspen City Council

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