Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Let me start right off by saying I have a nostalgic fondness for the Aspen Club.
I first joined the club way back in the early 1980s when the club was pretty new and offering special rates for locals. (I hate that term – “locals” – by the way, but what the heck, if someone’s going to give me a discount, I’ll swallow my proud objections.)
One of my co-workers at the Times suggested that she and I should claim that we lived together and get the “family discount,” which the oh-so-progressive club was offering to those who merely lived together, no actual marriage required
The co-worker was mighty cute, so I eagerly accepted her suggestion – hoping that it was a hint of a possible future entanglement.
Well, I never got even so much as a peck on the cheek from that cute co-worker, but I did get a good discount on club membership and that was the point. So … fine. See if I care.
Speaking of nostalgia, I also fondly remember standing in the club, looking down at two tennis players rallying on one of the indoor courts that occupied the space that is now dedicated to weight training.
Bundled up in heavy sweats, they were playing with speed, grace and awesome power. A man standing next to me asked, clearly impressed, “Who are those guys?” I squinted to make certain and then cheerfully informed him, “That’s Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.”
Just another afternoon at the Aspen Club.
And, finally, my wife and I played tennis numerous times on those same indoor courts when we first were dating – and, as she never fails to remind me when the topic arises, she beat me regularly (and was charmed by what a good loser I was).
So how could I not be fond of a club that gave me moments like that?
And still, I confess I have no strong feelings one way or the other about the proposed massive expansion of the club.
To be sure, it is a “massive” expansion. The club will more than double in size; they will build 20 timeshare units (some of which will function as a virtual hotel), plus 12 affordable housing units, underground parking … whatever. It’s massive.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad project. Just that it deserves some pretty close scrutiny.
Which, just to be very clear, it’s not going to get here.
As I said, I don’t have strong feelings about the proposal.
But what I do feel strongly about is the way the approval process seems to require that truth be tossed out the window. (Perhaps that could be a new form of exercise that the improved Aspen Club could offer: aerobic truth tossing.)
For example, the prolonged discussions of the “traffic impacts” of the expansion.
Mayor Mick has said that he will insist that there shall be zero growth in traffic on Ute Avenue as a result of any expansion – and the club’s representatives have been quick to assure everyone that this will indeed be the case.
Double the size. Thirty-two housing units. A sort-of hotel. But no more traffic.
Come on! Pay attention. This just can’t be true.
The club says they’ll contribute to the cost of the RFTA cross-town shuttle.
Like that’s going to help.
I’ll say it again: Maybe it’s a good project. Maybe Aspen has to accept the impacts to achieve the improvements. But as the man says, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
Traffic is going to increase on Ute Avenue.
Can anyone really have any question about this? I don’t think so. But the developers have to pretend they can wave a magic mitigation wand and make it so. And politicians – for God only knows what reason – have to pretend to believe them.
But the rest of us – who are neither developers nor politicians – can at least speak the truth: Ute Avenue is a narrow, curving street with inadequate shoulders and lots of pedestrians and bicycles. And traffic there will increase.
So when you hear the words “traffic impacts,” think in terms of the “impact” of fender on flesh when some sweaty hiker comes off the Ute Trail and crosses the street without looking both ways.
That’s just the way it is. No more horsefeathers.
And while we’re on the subject of barnyard droppings, I wish the club’s supporters would stop solemnly intoning words like “holistic wellness.” They dare to say that the “timeshares would be sold as a holistic living retreat to potential buyers.”
Any sentence that contains both “timeshares” and “holistic living retreat” is in danger of imploding and creating a black hole of inanity.
Oh yeah, if there’s one thing we’ve all learned over the years, it’s that buyers of multimillion-dollar condos in Aspen are desperate for a holistic living retreat.
And may I finally add that every night, before I lay me down to sleep, I fall on my knees and pray: “Dear Lord, the next time someone invokes the ‘spirit of Walter Paepcke and the Aspen Idea’ in support of a commercial development, may his head explode – showering the room with little bloody bits of bone and brain.”
Now, as I look back over what I’ve written here, I realize it all sounds pretty negative. But, really, that’s just me, folks.
I still say that maybe Aspen needs a new improved, enlarged Aspen Club. And maybe not.
But can we at least talk about it honestly?
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.