Aspen’s jihad and throwing stones
Aspen once hoped to become the “Athens of the West,” a town of educated, civilized citizens exchanging ideas and reaching decisions on the day’s issues with reason and fairness. Unfortunately, our local political discourse too often follows the national trend, reverting to emotional jihad-like outbursts of one sort or another: “Aspen to be destroyed by four-laning the highway, affordable housing, too many rich folk, redevelopment, global warming, whatever the crisis du jour. To The Aspen Times’ credit, they have established an ombudsman in an attempt to assure fairness, Andy Stone. Mr. Stone also writes columns for the Times, including last week’s “Here to hell in two easy steps.” In it he eloquently predicts Aspen’s armageddon via projects like the Blue Vic “allowing a developer to rape and pillage an historic house” by council’s approval of a plan “to drag that poor old Victorian home halfway across its lot and then ram an alley through the once-beautiful lawn,” and rhetorically asking the question, “Does Aspen need to have one of its few remaining unimproved Victorian homes puffed up, fluffed up, and left looking like a bloated corpse?”Powerful language, emotional and compelling, a witty pile-on … except none of it is true.Columnists, especially the ombudsman, have at least a modicum of responsibility to pick up the phone and make an attempt to find out the facts. The truth is, the “developer” he spittingly refers to happens to be a longtime local (me) who acquired a historic house that is falling apart and intends to restore it to its full 1880 glory. There will be no puffing, fluffing or bloating, and the house will remain exactly as it is with the possible addition of a garage. There was no approval or request to move the house, and the alley referred to has been a deeded city alley north of the lot which my neighbor has parked his cars in for years. Every one of the city’s rules and historic guidelines have been met, including paying for the city’s decision to access both my and my neighbor’s house via the existing unimproved alley rather than multiple driveways on Monarch and Bleeker. It is important to note I did not demand opening the alley; rather, I agreed to pay for whatever access the city decided was in the best long-term interests of the neighborhood. Of course, Mr. Stone could have known these facts if he had attended the City Council meetings or had simply placed a phone call. Now I am not so naïve to expect a blessing from the Times or my neighbors involving a change to the status quo, especially a change precluding the continued exclusive use of the alley for my neighbor’s cars. However, I certainly do expect a minor attempt at the facts prior to a full jihad-like assault from the sharp pen of Mr. Stone.The Blue Vic approval was also cited as one of the reasons for a development moratorium called for by the Times. Council decided improving the deeded alley to my neighbor’s home and mine was preferable to eventual multiple driveways on Monarch or Bleeker. Is this alley improvement really a threat to the “core values” of the town, and as such, part of the justification for a moratorium? Even though it limits driveways and provides sidewalks? Really? As Councilman J.E. Devilbiss said, “This proposal meets city codes and arguments against it were based more on emotion than adherence to law.”The issues facing our town can only be solved by reasonable discourse and respect for the facts from all parties, including the newspapers. Of course many are frustrated with any proposed change to our city. Of course many fear the added construction pressures from a new $25 million school, $35 million in government affordable housing construction, $14 million in probable fire station construction. Of course many disagree on both government and private construction improvements planned for our future.Melodramatic attacks ignoring the truth only serve to increase the frustration many feel about our town’s future and reduce the possibility of reasonable decision-making based on the facts. Just ask the Times ombudsman.Tim Semrau is the developer of the Blue Vic property on Monarch and Bleeker.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.