Take it on the LAM | AspenTimes.com

Take it on the LAM

Andy StoneAspen, CO Colorado

So it seems that the rejected Lodge at Aspen Mountain will come back to the City Council in a new, smaller design.This is, I suppose, a good thing. The easy way to improve almost any recent Aspen development would be to make it smaller.But I’m puzzled that the developers didn’t simply launch an immediate effort to call an election. Sooner or later there’s going to be a citywide vote on the project – so why not get on with it?Actually, an election is probably the right way to go.With a project of this size, changing the face of the town and the base of the mountain, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the community to have its say through the ballot box.That’s what happened with the last major hotel project, the Ritz (now the St. Regis). It was a bitter fight at the time and, whether you like the result or not, the whole town voted, and that was that.I think that would be the best approach this time, regardless of how I personally feel about the Lodge at Aspen Mountain. (Except that I do have to wonder at the wisdom of a project that’s referred to as “LAM.” After all, “lam” is slang for what criminals do – they “take it on the lam” after they rob the bank.)But thinking about citizens voting on a project that will have major impact on the town, leads to thinking about a recent election in Snowmass.In case you missed the story in the Snowmass Sun a week ago, there are some serious concerns about second-home owners voting – perhaps fraudulently – in the town’s Base Village election.According to the Sun, there is evidence that a flood of second-home owners suddenly decided to make Snowmass their “official” home. The paper reported that a fair number of people apparently registered to vote in Snowmass just in time to cast a ballot in the Base Village election – and then, a few weeks later, they changed their registration back to wherever they really live.That might be a felony. But let’s set that legal question aside and consider the simple issue of fairness – whether second-home owners should be able to vote in local elections.The basic principal is clear: One man, one vote.Now, I know that second-home owners feel they have a financial and, in many cases, emotional stake in Aspen. But the difference between “caring deeply” about a town and actually “living in” that town is, dare I say it, the difference between dating and getting married.The difference is commitment. After all, a lot of guys spend a lot of money on women they aren’t willing to marry. Right, ladies? And they always tell you they “care deeply,” don’t they?In this country, people can live anywhere they want. Certainly, anyone who owns a home in Aspen can live anywhere at all. So what has to count is making that choice, making a commitment.Is Colorado state income tax too high for you to commit to Aspen? Sorry, then you don’t care enough.Are election issues in some other town where you own property too important to ignore? Hey, that’s OK – but, sorry, you don’t get to vote here.That’s the way it works. Your heart, your soul, your politics, your pocketbook: Where they all come together, that’s your home.In Snowmass, I don’t think anyone can really know how those perhaps-fraudulently-registered second-home owners voted on Base Village. I can imagine that some, blinded by greed, voted yes; others, wanting peace and quiet, voted no.But that’s not the point. The point is that the people who live in a community – the people who are committed to a community – are the ones who get to vote on its future.Think for a moment about the Entrance to Aspen. Some say the entire valley should vote – but that would mean turning the decision over to those who care about the commute, not the community. Straight-shot four-lane, here we come! (Do I hear six-lane?)So, in the end, it’s the community that needs to decide – the Entrance to Aspen and the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.As for me … well, I live in Missouri Heights. I don’t get to vote on the Entrance, and I don’t get to vote on the LAM.And that’s exactly the way it ought to be.Andy Stone is a former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com