Lodging units, false premises
I’ve been watching the city council work sessions on GrassRoots TV, which the town seems to be pretty much ignoring despite the fact that the council is meeting almost daily to hash out the land use code and make the changes the moratorium was intended to address. The public is welcome, and the public should pay attention.In one of the lodging meetings, I was astounded to hear that Aspen lodging has been fully booked only one day in the past four years. One day a year??The premise we have heard again and again is: “Oh woe, we have lost all these lodging rooms and we have to do something to bring our bed base back,” but is this really true? If we’ve only been fully booked one day in the past four years, do we need more lodging?Why, then, are we building so much more lodging?The bulldozers are waiting for the big digs of the Dancing Bears, the Boomerang, the Holland House, the Limelight, the Lodge at Aspen Mountain and the Skier’s Chalet, and the cranes are in place at the Residences at the Little Nell. Do we need any more?Of course what we all really want are more reasonably priced units, but what we have are more and more high-end accommodations and the irony is that in the off-season these pricey rooms are given away for peanuts, further kicking what’s left of the old-time lodges in the teeth. Why stay at the Molly Gibson if you can get a $1,500 suite in the Jerome Hotel for $125 a night?When the town was fighting the Ritz (now St. Regis), the cry was that the little lodges would suffer, and suffer they have.Another irony is that our high-end hotels and expensive time-share units attract the very visitors who arrive in virtually empty private planes, which have been identified as the major source of our air pollution. Aren’t we working at cross-purposes here?If we’re really interested in helping our workers, we should get rid of the stupid HOV lanes that do nothing but distress our commuters and put HOPP fees in place at the airport, charging private planes through the nose exponentially for each plane seat that isn’t used, applying the money to affordable housing. Charge anyone wanting free security escort services an extra million just to discourage them.What are we thinking about, toadying to the “president” of Iraq and his entourage? Just say NO!And if we want affordable hotel rooms, make all those huge hotels, fractionals and “condominium hotels” set aside a reasonable percentage of rooms with reasonable rates for visitors of moderate means. I can see the crocodile tears now, the claims that such requirements will not fit in with the demands of the “financial engines” that make such projects profitable.It is not the city’s job to ensure a project’s profitability. If it won’t make enough millions in Aspen then, hey, go to Vail, because you are not the solution, you are the problem.Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks it’s way past time to get serious. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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