What Aspen stands to gain, or lose
Les Holst’s recent tirade against the Lift One Master Plan committee is slanderous and unfair. He accuses two dozen of his fellow citizens, his neighbors, of being patsies for two developers and the Aspen Skiing Co. As a member of that committee, I take offense at his personal attack against all of us who worked very hard to come up with a plan that works for the community.
What does everyone think is going to happen should this plan be rejected by City Council?
A chairlift isn’t going to be built any closer to Willoughby Park. The Aspen Skiing Co. has made it very clear that they have no intention of building such a lift, even if they did own all the land necessary (which they don’t). There are a variety of logistical and business reasons for their resistance, and I don’t think that is going to change.
The proposed surface lift may not seem ideal for everyone, but it provides a real way for skiers and snowboarders to get up the hill to the chairlift. More importantly, it presents an opportunity to open a dedicated ski slope from Lift 1A down to Dean Street. Everyone is giving up a little bit of land to make that work. Without this plan, this opportunity may very well be lost.
And what about the Skiers Chalet Steakhouse? The developers originally planned to use that building exclusively for employee housing. Through the master plan process, they agreed to dedicate the first floor for an affordable restaurant and bar, and the basement to locals’ ski lockers. Those are very real community benefits that exist because of this master plan.
A less visible but equally large community benefit is the underground parking and service area to be jointly built by the developers. Rather than grinding their way up Aspen and Monarch streets, service trucks will enter the underground structure at the corner of Dean and Aspen, do their bidding and exit at Gilbert and Monarch, protecting the neighborhood from noise and pollution. It will include public parking to replace what’s lost on Aspen Street and Dean Street. It also requires extraordinary cooperation.
And finally there is the ski museum. Aspen voters overwhelmingly endorsed the creation of such a museum at Willoughby Park in the 1990s. The historical society now has the management in place, with a solid record of success, to realize that community vision. The museum was an important part of the planning process, so it too has a stake.
The citizens who worked hard for six months on this plan did the best they could in the time frame they were given. There are some big issues still to be worked out that are for the council and the developers to negotiate.
Please think through the potential benefits of this plan succeeding and the costs of it failing. There is no guarantee that some future proposal will include a ski trail and lift, a beer and brat pub, affordable skier lockers and a thoughtful and well-designed ski museum. Indeed, there is a good chance that some future proposal will contain none of the above.
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