Beware of developers bearing gifts for us
Aspen, CO Colorado
Why do we let new development projects around here expand like Lycra shorts at Paradise Bakery? That’s easy: It’s because we like to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with developers. All the local land-use rules are written in favor of controlled, sensible growth, so the deck is stacked in our favor, and thus we should be well ahead in this game of give and take.
Walking through our streets recently, adroitly dodging dump trucks in crosswalks and wincing from pneumatic cracks of a jackhammer in my ears, I made an attempt to tally all the swag we’ve been tempted with.
First of all are the wonderful: new heated streets we’re promised. There’s nothing like petroleum-heated ethylene glycol pumping through coiled PVC piping underneath fresh asphalt to accentuate a diminishing winter wonderland. Its value to us, after purchasing carbon credits to offset this cornucopia of environmental stupidity and solidifying our growing reputation as ecohypocrites: priceless!
Next is free use of conference rooms for local nonprofits. Any shrewd businessperson knows how much work gets done in meetings, so why do we expect charities to do any better? I say that a charity currently using more than 0.1 percent of its budget on conference room rentals is spending too much time on its butts talking about what needs to be done! If all else fails, charitable organizations desperate for B.S. and doughnuts can use the conference room at the public library.
Then, what of a 20 percent discount for locals at the next, pretentious, overpriced, old ski picture lounge they plan to build in their complexes? Gee, thanks. Now, I know that I’m not the most interesting guy in town, so why do I get the feeling that I’m doing them a favor by showing up in these places? Yes, it’s flattering, but not portent for a fun night out.
Equally worthless is the perk of 50 covered parking spots at the base of the mountain “specially reserved” for locals. We all know how this works. On instances when there are no hotel guests, employees, friends, friends of employees, guests or friends, plumbers, electricians, delivery vehicles, event personnel, or charitable organizations occupying the conference rooms on any given day, then maybe, just maybe, you have a shot at getting one. Note: This will never happen on a powder day. Also note: These parking spaces will be plentiful throughout the offseasons. The final caveat is that, in order to build these additional parking spaces, the entire base of the mountain must be moved 250 feet farther up the ski mountain so that many people who used to walk there will now drive, and you will then have to circle around fighting them for spots on the street, too.
This brings me to the incredible community bonus of a brand-new, high-speed quad lift to replace a rickety old bucket of bolts that many of us secretly like. (A ride on an old-fashioned two-person lift is part of the essence of skiing that has vanished too quickly. We don’t need them everywhere, but we need them somewhere. It is the closest thing we have to a quiet beach. If you need it explained better than that, you wouldn’t understand anyway. So, I won’t try.) Hey, if it costs a developer $4 million to install, it must be great for us, right?
Did I mention that the base station needs to be moved up the ski run another 250 feet to accommodate this improvement? Yep, according to the developers, there are some doohickeys and whatnots that they have to make room for so that the thing operates properly. Yeah right, like a new rental shop, ski school lounge and valet ski lockers if my instinct is worth half the tip on a discounted pina colada. That ought to make the whole thing work just about right. All we get are longer lift lines, more runs scraped down to the dirt on the steep side of the mountain, a longer walk to the slopes, less skiing and the opportunity to stress out over getting a local parking space that doesn’t exist.
Another thing developers give us are incredible sob stories. Many Aspenites delight over cries of injustice, so these sad yarns may be the most valuable community assets of all. Even so, the same old story is wearing a little thin: “With land costs so high, we have no choice but to build another four levels of timeshares to make economic sense of this project.” What this really means is that developers are paying too much for land with the expectation that we will bail them out. Now, that’s good entertainment!
Finally, the benefit of benefits, the hot-button of hot-buttons, the emotional equivalent of Labrador puppies on a get-well card: additional employee housing units! Recently developers have benevolently offered to provide housing for as many as 75 percent of the (severely under-) estimated 200 people filling the new jobs they will create with their gargantuan projects. Wow! But, what about the 50 newcomers who don’t get housing? Hmmm, let’s see … that’s 50 more people in a housing lottery that there already is no chance of winning and thus, 50 more cars on a highway that can’t handle even one more. Not to mention the, at least, 200 newcomers to bash shopping carts with in the aisles of City Market. If you miss them there, you can get in a fender-bender with them at the post office.
In the event that you feel developers aren’t keeping up with their ends of these bargains, feel free to contact the developers’ Urban Promise Enforcement director down at City Hall. Good luck!
We talk a lot about former Aspenites selling their stakes and moving on. It is never in a flattering way, and usually we can’t say enough bad things about the greedy bastards, unless, with all due respect, they are dead. But, at least most of them headed out with a big wad of cash. What about us who stay and let developers have their way with our building code? We are the true sellouts, and fools to boot! We’re giving away the town right out from underneath our feet! And, for what? As far as I can tell we’re selling our soul for peanuts … and discounts on overpriced beer.
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