Here to hell in two easy steps |

Here to hell in two easy steps

Andy Stone

Last week I wrote – in my usual cranky fashion – about a rich kid named Jonathan Lewis who demolished the Elizabeth Paepcke House a few years ago and now is trying to build a swimming pool, a lighted staircase and God knows what else behind his new mansion, on a bluff overlooking the Hallam Lake wildlife sanctuary.I mentioned that this could be considered a Battle for the Soul of Aspen. (Yeah, I know, melodramatic.)Well, now the Aspen City Council – in what seems to be some sort of educational outreach – is giving us a delightful series of lessons in exactly how it’s done, how we slip into the nasty sinkhole of Aspen’s own Armageddon.We saw Lesson One in the council’s 3-2 decision to allow a developer to (please pardon the hackneyed phrase, but it seems to fit so well) rape and pillage an historic house at the edge of an historic neighborhood.I’m referring, of course, to the “Blue Vic”- that bright blue (OK, I admit it, I never cared for that color), slightly shabby Victorian house at the corner of Monarch and Bleeker.In case you haven’t been paying attention, the city council just approved a plan to drag that poor old Victorian home halfway across its lot and then ram an alley through the once-beautiful lawn.All this destruction and ruination will then allow the developer to proudly create a new house on the lot, plus a commercial building that would be accessed off Mill Street.Does Aspen need a new commercial building on that block? No.Does Aspen need to have one of its few remaining “unimproved” Victorian homes puffed up, fluffed up, and left looking like a bloated corpse? Um … no.But that’s what we’re getting. How sweet. How sweet of the developer to think of it. How sweet of the council to approve it.OK, let’s be sort of fair: You can’t blame the developer for coming up with the idea. That’s what developers do. They see a nice old house sitting on a nice big lot and think, “Hmmm. I bet I could do something with that place.”(In this case, by the way, “something” means “make a lot of money.”)But if we can’t blame the developer for asking, we can sure as hell blame the city for saying, “Oh, sure. That sounds fine,” as they pat us on the back and push us down the primrose path to perdition.That, as I said, is Lesson One.Lesson Two came this week, courtesy of a 3-2 vote by the same city council to “delist” a once-historic home on West Francis Street.In that decision, the same three council members who approved that rape ‘n’ pillage over at the corner of Monarch and Bleeker agreed that an old miner’s cabin had already been so “improved” that it was no longer “historic.”And since it’s no longer historic, it’s no longer protected.In other words (and please excuse my language), since it’s no longer a virgin, it’s just another slut, and the owner can have at it without fear of censure.Hey, kids! See how easy it is!Step One: Give it the old Blue Vic treatment. Jack it up, drag it around, pave its lawn … and then it’s time for the full “Aspen Trophy Wife” make-over: face-lift, Botox, new boobs, lots of paint and … Wow! Ain’t she cute.Step Two: Call her a fallen woman. What a hussy! No self-respect. Laugh at her frozen expression and plastic chest extensions. Step Three: Sell her to a multimillionaire who’ll rev up the big yellow Caterpillar and give her the coup de bulldozer, the “we had to demolish the home in order to save it.”Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! There aren’t that many left.And at the rate our beloved city council is going, soon there won’t be any at all.And then what will we develop?Oh dear.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is

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