Gimme a ‘G’!

Andy StoneAspen, CO Colorado

Well, I’m sort of glad to see that Willits developer Michael Lipkin is sort of telling the truth.Lipkin, as you may recall, tried a few weeks ago to get Basalt to approve additional development at Willits. He claimed that the Whole Foods supermarket people were requiring 100 extra homes as part of the deal to put a market in Willits.The Whole Foods people almost immediately said Lipkin (to put it simply) was not telling the truth. They didn’t care about any additional homes.Now Lipkin is, as I said, cutting a little closer to the truth. He’s admitting it’s all a matter of money.Let me stop here for a minute and point out that I actually like the Willits project. I think it’s going to be a good thing for the midvalley. And, frankly, I don’t think another 100 homes are going to make much of a difference.Sure, the problems are coming. Traffic, mostly. But it isn’t Willits by itself – plus or minus a hundred homes – that’s causing the problems.That said, I still don’t think Mr. Lipkin is being entirely truthful. He’s claiming the extra homes are needed to make the project “economically feasible.” But in truth, he and his out-of-town partners are already benefiting from an enormous windfall profit that’s the result of skyrocketing midvalley real estate prices.I haven’t seen their financial statements, but I kind of suspect that the developers are just being greedy.Not that there’s anything wrong with that.Greed, as the fella famously said, is good.Come on, admit it. We’re all greedy.Just for fun, consider this: If it weren’t for greed, Willits wouldn’t even be in the town of Basalt. It’d be under the control of an entirely different government – maybe Eagle County.Willits is only part of Basalt because the town made a wild land-grabbing annexation in order to capture the sales tax revenue from City Market. Basalt these days is proud of its strict Urban Growth Boundary, but just a few years ago it went sprawling several miles downvalley to snag the City Market cash by annexing land in unincorporated Eagle County.And, in fact, if it weren’t for greed, Eagle County wouldn’t be involved in the Roaring Fork Valley. There’s no reason on earth for Eagle County to control a small slice of this valley (except that mapmakers 100 years ago liked straight lines) – but the county would lose a lot of tax money if it let go.It’s all greed – not necessarily evil, except that someone always has to wind up on the losing side of the equation. The dollar that goes into my pocket has to come out of someone else’s.And that leads (by a circuitous route) to the case of a handful of affordable-housing residents who are getting screwed in Snowmass.In a nutshell: The Country Club Townhomes have 94 units – 83 free-market, 11 price-controlled. The entire complex is a little shabby, so the condo association has decided to give it a $13 million face-lift.The problem is, everyone – free-market and price-controlled alike – is getting assessed an equal share (more or less) of the bill. The owners of the free-market units will eventually recoup their expense when they sell. The owners of the affordable units can’t do that.Rough numbers: One affordable unit is price-controlled at $300,000. The owners are being charged almost $100,000 for the renovation. A similar unit next door might sell for $1 million – and the owners will pay the same $100,000 charge for the renovation.And the owners of the free-market units just cheerfully voted to approve that very unfair plan.Are they evil? Hell, no. (Or not all of them, anyway.) But they seem more than willing to allow (OK, require) their neighbors to pay for renovations that will ultimately put more money in their own pockets.In the midvalley, in the Brush Creek Valley, in the upper valley … hell, in every valley, every hillside, every flatland, everywhere – that’s just the way it works.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is