Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It has become obvious that, in order for Aspen to reach its full potential, it is imperative that we prioritize our hatreds. The Aspen Area Community Plan makes a stab at this, but there are too many literary Tic Tacs masking the bile written into it.
What do we really hate the most? Is it luxurious homes that are empty most of the time, traffic jams, construction noise, pollution or 42-foot-high buildings downtown?
Yes, I understand that we hate them all, but, as we figured out moments after we recently banned tall buildings (i.e., penthouses for the rich; i.e., unacceptable profits for the local 1 percenters; i.e., developers and landlords; i.e., dirt pimps; i.e. ,greedheads) in a single bound, the scatter-shot approach to implementing fear and loathing in Las Aspen can result in lots more of some of the other things we hate even worse than land-grabbers pushing the building envelopes to new heights in the name of the arts, preserving our heritage and housing the working class.
Apparently City Hall is awash in tall-building applications that beat the clock of regulation, and we now face an extended period of performance-enhanced construction, just like the good ol’ days at the turn of Y2K through TARP. You remember: the horrendous traffic jams caused by trucks and more trucks making their ways into town daily in order to create noise, dust, general chaos with parking, and new wings on old houses for home theaters.
Those were the least satisfying days of my 50-year life in Aspen, bar none! And not just because some people were getting rich. Idling cars on Main Street became the modern Aspen icon. My ears rang, and my nose burned. Parking was next to impossible or between huge, filthy construction vehicles. People’s nerves were frayed, and we were not ourselves. I hated that.
I am afraid that those days are back, except this time it might be worse. The artificially accelerated construction will take place in a five square-block area better known as the center of our community. We won’t be able to avoid it. It’s not even like everyone will share in the prosperity. The general economy in the valley is still weak. It will be five to 10 years of self-induced hell because we lost our cool and passed a law without prioritizing our hates.
The other thing that happens when we lose our heads like this is that we get dumb – this unanticipated mess is nobody’s fault but our neighbors’. The other day a columnist in the other local paper suggested that the true fault of this mess rested on the shoulders of two City Council members who thought the emergency ordinance to halt construction of tall buildings immediately back in February was hastily put together and thus shot it down, opening the door for developers to get their plans in. Talk about brick-house logic built on a premise of quicksand. Alex, I’ll take “Throw Intelligent Debate out the Second-Story Window” for two cents, please.
The implied solution was that everyone on City Council should pass every emergency ordinance immediately regardless of its merits. In other words: Let’s make Torre king of Aspen.
At any rate, we’ve created quite a mess. We are going to end up with lots of tall buildings anyway. Every downtown property owner who ever had the faintest, far-off-in-the-future thought of topping off an old building with a penthouse was forced into doing it right now. As a result, we are going to have lots of traffic, nostrils full of dust, flattened eardrums, a rapid loss of older architectural character and empty penthouses downtown. Think how foolish this is: We have no demand for expensive penthouses (e.g., the Mother Lode building) yet we have “incentivized” developers to go hog wild in building them.
Now watch: As things get messy with all the new construction, we will blame the developers and landlords for it. But, as much as I am loath to say it, this time it will not be their fault. As we did not take the time to think this course of action through, we gave them no time to react to it, either. If the adage that haste makes waste is true, we are going to have plenty of it in our future. And it’s our own damn faults.
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