Our quality of life on the line | AspenTimes.com

Our quality of life on the line

Imagine Aspen a generation from now: a thriving resort, populated by a healthy mix of locals that includes some of the children who are in school here today. A resort where people of all social groups and classes feel welcome and are able to share our beauty. A town where the views of the mountain landscape are not much different from today’s. A place that is a model for environmental excellence.I am seeking election as Aspen’s mayor in order to pass along to the next generation what we found here: a diverse, engaged community that values the beauty of this place much more than mere money. More than 30 years ago, residents here decided we would not be the empty theme park that so many of our rivals have become, resorts where working families are excluded and huge, empty buildings are the dominant landscape, and the largest public investments are in parking structures.Along the way, our commitment to quality of life has created prosperity that far exceeds the wealth of resorts that focused first and foremost on the bottom line. We can’t have it all, but we can have everything we need if our values are sound and our priorities are in order.We can pass our heritage along and build on it if we are willing to adopt land use rules that encourage development we need: actual lodge rooms rather than empty fractional units; retail uses that are not just exclusive by appointment only shops; and affordable housing that is truly affordable.Lately, we have been asked to trust that outside investors will act in our long-term interest if only we will make concessions and bend the rules to accommodate their short-term bottom line. We have waived height limits, parking requirements and housing mitigation with no real guarantee that the promised community benefits will be delivered.Without meaningful limits on height or firmly enforced rules on housing and parking, the land-use code is empty and meaningless. And if we do veer from the rules, then leadership demands that we get those community benefits in writing, whether it is the promise to build lodge rooms or create housing.For the Native American nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, each law must be considered in light of its effect on the next seven generations. For Aspen, we must be careful not to consume the resources that may be needed for future generations to live as well as we do today.Consistent with that standard, I have called for land-use code changes that emphasize commercial uses and lodging uses downtown rather than the empty box fractional and condominium development that we saw at projects like the Aspen Highlands base village. We have learned by now that big buildings devoted to second-home uses do not provide life and vitality.We also need to rein in the pace of development. We cannot and should not provide a second home or affordable housing unit for everyone who wants to live here. Part of our housing problem comes from the fact that we have allowed so much unmitigated, job-generating development that we are forced to build more housing than we can find room for. And because of this housing “shortage” we are forced to accept more traffic and parking demands for the workers who first build and then service high-end development.Finally, we need to recognize that Aspen needs a transportation system that makes it possible for our guests and workers to get in and out of town in a reasonable amount of time. Whatever solution we ultimately adopt must provide an advantage to those using transit, discourage unnecessary trips, limit incoming vehicles to today’s levels and respect our open space. It is not enough to say, well, those people are from out of town and we don’t care how long it takes them to get home.Any traffic solution must not foreclose the ability of future generations to create an advanced transit system, should they need and want to do so. I ask that you help make democracy work by voting on June 5. I trust that your judgment and consideration of Aspen’s future will lead you to choose me as your next mayor.Mick Ireland is a candidate for mayor of Aspen in the June 5 runoff election

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