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Guest Opinion: City Council should keep hands off code

Andy Modell

Man, this is out of control. We spent years developing Burlingame but clearly did nor think it through well enough to enable lot owners to build quality homes that they will proud of.Now we are second-guessing the results of the five years this community spent developing a plan for infill. Whether or not the questions raised are valid, it is ludicrous to expect to correct five years of work in six months.It becomes even more insulting when council members vote against their own codes. It should be irrelevant what they like or dislike. If it meets code, which they directed and approved, they should follow it.If they don’t like it, change it. But for crying out loud, I do not want a retired (and capable) jurist, a tennis instructor, etc., designing my building. If the plans fit, live with it.This is harsh. It means that a few projects we do not like will likely be built. It means that a few we do like but that don’t fit won’t be built; but if we make the rules, we need to live with them.We have a very capable planning director in Chris Bendon as we have had with previous directors like Julie Ann Woods, Scan Clausen and many others.I make the same suggestion that I did when we ran into problems with street level offices and creating/saving a sustainable retail environment: hire a professional group to work with our professionals. Not Torre (no offense), but Bendon and others who can work from the concepts developed by the infill plan (this is where council and the community should have input) to create codes with enough defined flexibility to work and thus avoid the ambiguities of wild and subjective interpretations of well-meaning council members.Many will ask the same question that Tom McCabe addressed to me at council meeting when suggested a consultant before: “What if I don’t like what they come up with?” Same answer, live with it. Council is not equipped to deal with making these decisions. We waste more time and money making knee-jerk reactions to Toni, Les, the straight-shot contingent (save old Aspen, preserve congestion, the S-curves and our Seventh Street property values) and others than we accomplish. Continually second-guessing ourselves and our immediate predecessors is getting us nowhere.Hire some consultants that are not running for re-election, do not have the biases and myopic perspectives (don’t sell second homes to corporations? Good grief!) that council members (may) have.City government should be hiring private developers to develop and manage Burlingame. Professional planners should interpret and develop codes for development. And City Council should follow the codes.One last thought, but first a question: What is the story with the Wheeler funds? Do we have a surplus in Wheeler tax revenues every year? If so, let’s put the money to good use, purchase the Isis (and use a professional company to manage the theater/movie operation), combine it with firehouse next door and the existing Wheeler Opera House, and create a world-class performing arts center. It can be used for conferences, our world-famous FilmFest, HBO Comedy Fest, which gives us great publicity (remember, we are a destination resort – that is ultimately what drives our economy) and myriad other venues.Again, this is not to be managed by City Council or City government. City Council should make the decision and set the parameters. Private-sector PROFESSIONALS should manage the projects and make them work.Andy Modell has lived in the Aspen area since the early 1970s. He publishes, among other things, The Aspen Catalog. He was active with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for more than 20 years.


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