Put shelter for employees first | AspenTimes.com

Put shelter for employees first

Su Lum
Aspen, CO Colorado

That giant screeching sound you hear is the sound of Aspen City Council pulling on the brakes of the out-of-control development train that has been hurtling through Aspen for so long, and at such high speed, that the town has finally cried, “STOP!”

By electing Mick Ireland, voters endorsed a majority on City Council ” Ireland, J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson ” strongly leaning on the “brake” side.

The denial of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a gigan­tic luxury hotel on the Mine Dumps site, and an ordi­nance to review the demolition of any buildings more than 30 years old (which heretofore could be scraped with impunity), are both steps in the right direction.

This does not mean NO development, NO growth, but the council is clearly headed toward smaller and slower.

There will be plenty of construction going on for years ” just for the existing projects that are being built now or have already been approved ” opening new rooms at the Limelight, the Dancing Bear and The Resi­dences, bringing in more people when the town is already mobbed and stuck in traffic and we can’t find employees to drive the buses and bus the tables. Meanwhile, the coun­ty and city want more office space and a civic center, the arts people want a new art museum, ACRA wants new quar­ters, the library wants to expand and plans are under way to accommo­date these interested par­ties by redeveloping the Zupancis-Galena site, the area to the east of and behind the court­house.

While the plan is still in its gestation phase, the way these things work is that by the time the final design goes before Planning and Zoning and the City Council, it is pretty much a done deal, backed by dozens of volunteers and city staff claiming that they have been working publicly on the process for YEARS … and where were the nay­sayers then? Let me say “nay” in advance.

This enormous project seems to me to be at cross-­purposes when what we most desperately need to reduce traffic, maintain our work force, save our community and save its soul is EMPLOYEE HOUSING IN TOWN. We already have a lovely library, we already have a fabulous art museum, we already own that sizable chunk of land, we can surely do without a city/county civic cen­ter, so why not put employee housing on ALL of it?

Move some of the less visited government office spaces to the Airport Business Center, ditto the jail (why should the jail be downtown?), tear down the dysfunc­tional Youth Center (sorry dancers, but first things first), use some of that vacant circle of tranquility that was sup­posed to be so “vital” and fill it with affordable housing.

Add studios, one-bedrooms and mostly rentals (fami­lies have Burlingame, which should proceed swiftly to its conclusion), and put this housing issue to rest once and for all, avoiding ineffective infill projects with penthous­es on top to fuel the builders’ financial engines.