Fighting development takes (crystal) balls
I haven’t been this angry about greedy developers soiling local politics for a long time! And I’ll get to the specifics, but bear with me a minute. How I know what I know is important.I saw it through my eyelids and was instantly agitated. It couldn’t have been glowing for long; you can’t ignore it even in sleep. I sprang out of bed and headed for the closet where my crystal ball attracts dust and an occasional sucker, namely me.It doesn’t light up often, but when it does, it’s worth looking into. The last time it shone was nearly a year ago when it augured big changes for a notable Main Street hotel. At the time what it predicted seemed farfetched. Quickly tiptoeing to the closet, I shut myself inside, lest the eerie, green glow wake my wife. She hates the thing and made me promise last spring to take it to The Thrift Shop. Instead, I painted it black to resemble a bowling ball and slid it back behind a pair of ’80s vintage Tijuana huaraches. I grabbed the luminous globe and made myself comfortable on the floor, beneath my aging business suits whose once vital pockets are now stuffed with a collection of yellowing wedding invitations and dog-eared funeral programs. I scraped away some paint with an old belt buckle and gazed into the glassy sphere. The images were shocking!There was our beautiful little town of Aspen. Standing out proudly were brick-and-mortar icons of the unique community: There was the courthouse and City Hall, the Hotel Jerome and Wheeler Opera House. A few old churches stood piously over the sleepy burg. Perfectly fitting of its quaint charm, the fire department was nestled right in the middle. It made me proud. Our town is a giant among small towns! … figuratively speaking, of course. But I could see that not all is well. There will be an election this May to determine if we should refurbish the existing fire station. It is proposed that it remain right where it is today, right where it has gracefully matured into a genuine symbol of our community. This is not the problem.The problem is that the fire station is not only located in the perfect place to protect our citizens, show off the trucks, and launch our local parades, it is also the perfect place for developers to throw up high-end retail shops lurking below swank penthouses. A rapacious group of vermin wants to cash in on this property in the worst way. I mean that quite literally.The crystal ball gave me a glimpse of their plan, and I warn you: It’s ugly. As many of you are small-town people, unaccustomed to dirty, big-city politics, this will make you sick. What I will tell is so repulsive that you will want, with all of your hearts, to believe that this type of thing doesn’t really happen. Unfortunately, it does. It’s about to happen here.These rats, and I sincerely hope they are offended not only at being called that but also at actually being that, are plotting to purchase the property by way of secret meetings and negotiations. The crystal ball foretells that these attempts will not be fruitful because of the virtue and commitment to open and honest dealings of our fire department.However, what evil will occur in response to that integrity is appalling. The rats will wage an all-out war to defeat the ballot issue!”Why?” you ask, and I’m glad you did. Is it out of spite that the rats would do this? Of course not – they are animals of commerce where emotion is but a hindrance. They will fight the bond issue simply to force us into the proverbial corner.The rats know that the citizens of Aspen desperately need a new firehouse. Yet, they will spare no expense in convincing us that we don’t … in this election.After the bond issue is defeated, they will then turn their efforts to convincing us that we do indeed need a new fire station. In fact, they will tell us that it’s absolutely critical for our children’s safety.”But,” we will cry. “We just voted down a bond in the last election. We have no money for a new fire station. Oh, what will we do?” Of course, this plays perfectly into their plan. “Well,” they will reply coyly. “We will help you because we love this town so much!”We will be grateful. We will throw a party for these benefactors. They will be heralded as heroes! Then, after the music quiets down, the hangovers take hold, and the Trojan Horse is wheeled in, someone will meekly ask: “How will you help us?””Aheeem,” they will gurgle. “You will sell us the land where the firehouse and Thrift Shop are now. You can use that money to build a new firehouse. … Where, we don’t really give a damn. Try Main Street. All we ask in return is that you give us a few variances in the building code so we don’t have to mitigate as much, and so that we can build a little more.”So, because of her charm, Aspen is going to get screwed … again. The crystal ball foretells that the developers won’t stop until everything attractive in her is gone. Now I have to tell you, this premonition scared me so that I covered my crystal ball in an old sweatshirt and carried it down to the garage in the middle of that night. On my workbench, I painted it over until the glow was completely shut out. First thing the next day, I hauled it to The Thrift Shop as my wife had instructed me to do before.Rumor has it that a guy named Lefty bought it for a dollar. Laugh if you must, but it is said that he has bowled nothing but strikes ever since.Roger Marolt wouldn’t be surprised if a developer showed up here with viable plans to convert the Red Butte Cemetery into timeshares. He’s plotting at email@example.com
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“Many of these stoic commuters endure brain-numbing traffic jams so they can service vacant mega homes, making sure all the lights are on and that the snowmelt patios, driveways, sidewalks and dog runs are thoroughly heated so as to evaporate that bothersome white stuff that defines Aspen’s picturesque winter landscape and ski economy,“ writes Paul Andersen.