Janet Urquhart: A local or not? It takes more than an address | AspenTimes.com

Janet Urquhart: A local or not? It takes more than an address

This week marks my eighth year in Aspen ” a milestone I mention only because it’s the single-most-defining characteristic of my existence here. Or, so it would seem.

Last week, I sat through a lengthy public hearing on the controversial Burlingame Ranch housing project. Virtually every citizen who stood up to address the City Council prefaced their remarks by announcing how long they’ve resided here, as though the value of their opinions would be weighted, based on their tenure as a “local.”

I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life where people make note of their DOA (date of arrival). It ought to be on every Aspenite’s driver’s license. It’s certainly on everyone’s lips.

The implication, of course, is that one’s tenure defines a certain status ” who is a local versus who’s just passing through. For all I know, I’m just passing through, but I’m doing it slowly.

One thing is certain, it takes more than an address to be an Aspenite.

Just this week, two people have asked me how long I’ve been in Aspen. Eight years of residency is sufficient to get that appreciative nod that confers acceptance as a member of our clubby community from some; to others, I’m still persona non grata, still in my probationary period, don’t yet know the secret handshake.

Despite this preoccupation with how long we’ve each been here, there is no generally accepted standard that marks the transition from short-termer to local and then to the ultimate status: longtime local.

Instead, everyone has their own measure. It goes something like this: If you got here after me, you’re a newcomer; if you arrived here before me, you’re a local.

This is critical, because, as we all know, Aspen began its decline the day after we got here. And everyone who came after us is part of the problem, but we’re not.

How many times have you heard someone, right after they tell you how long they’ve been here, talk about how they remember when … yada, yada, yada? Aspen has changed, and not in a good way.

No doubt, Aspen changed before they got here, too, but they weren’t here to see it, so that change doesn’t bother them.

The reality is, everything changes, given sufficient time, and we always hate it. Take my hips, for example (talk about sprawl).

During the Burlingame debate, one individual (after announcing she has been here 28 years), spoke in favor of the project because she remembers when people resided downtown and housing out at Burlingame would mean more locals living in Aspen.

Then a local newspaper columnist, who made a point of noting he arrived 34 years ago, lamented the loss of “townies,” but decried Burlingame as sprawl because it’s too far out of town.

One thing is certain: These two people may not like the changes they see, but they won’t leave Aspen, because they still figure it’s better than anyplace else. They could shake hands on that point ” with the secret handshake.

[Janet Urquhart can’t believe she’s made it this far. Her column appears on Fridays]

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