Those foam rubber clubs
October 24, 2007
It seems as if everyone in the development business is looking for a big club – something powerful to batter the opposition into submission.But (mixed metaphor alert!) those big clubs can backfire. They’re dangerous to the swingers, as well as the swung-upon. After all, what happens when you swing that club and it doesn’t do the job?I’m thinking, for example, of the recent Lodge at Aspen Mountain debacle.The developers thought their ace in the hole, their big club, was the fact that they already had approval for a bunch of condominium townhouses on their site at the base of Aspen Mountain.Knowing that no one wants to see more condos there – dark for much of the year, contributing little or nothing to the local economy – they swung that club.”Hey, you know, if we don’t get to build our lodge, we’ll just go ahead and build those CONDOS!”But when push came to shove, a lot of people made it clear that, yes, they hated the idea of condos – but they hated the lodge plan even more.Oops!I think we saw a hint of similar club-swinging when Pat Smith – who figures, with some justification, that he more or less owns Snowmass – declared that the town’s moratorium on development applications was “a slap in the face.”In this case, there was not specific club being swung, just the hint that you don’t really want to slap the feudal lord in the face. Do you, you peasant?But the peasants passed the moratorium anyway. Screw you, sire.Still, these days, the biggest dud of a well-swung club is looking to be the Whole Foods grocery store at Willits.I can understand the Willits developers thinking that Whole Foods truly was the atomic club. People in this semiorganic upscale valley have been clamoring for the presence of that semiorganic upscale grocer for years.Sure, Whole Foods is so pricey that people have taken to calling it Whole Paycheck. So what? Overpriced self-indulgence is what this place is all about.Look out, City Mark-up! Whole Paycheck is going to eat your lunch!But now it’s looking as if the Willits folks have swing that club a bit too hard and a bit too often.Having already gotten approval for just about the biggest project in the history of the valley, they’ve gone back to the Basalt council time and again to ask for – no, to demand – more.”We know we asked for a little more. But what we really meant was a lot more. A whole lot more. Oh, did we say ‘whole’? We meant … WHOLE FOODS!”And every time, they added, “Gee, if we don’t get this, well, gosh, we just can’t afford to give you that WHOLE FOODS.”First, they announced that Whole Foods was demanding more apartments in the project. And when Whole Foods immediately insisted that they had never required more apartments, the developers did a quick double-shuffle backflip and said, “No, no, no. Whole Foods isn’t insisting on the apartments. They’re insisting on a parking lot – and we can’t afford to build the parking lot unless we get those extra apartments.”And, by the way, did we mention that if we don’t get the extra approvals, we won’t build a WHOLE FOODS?”And all of a sudden people are beginning to wonder how badly they really need a Whole Foods.Sure, it’s a great market. But we’re not exactly starving here, are we?And do we really want to double the effort of our shopping trips? After all, once you’ve bought that scrumptious Whole Foods stuff, you’ll still need to swing by City Market for the other half of your shopping list.And, of course, you’ll have to fight through traffic and fight for a parking space in the midst of the mobs that have come down from Aspen and up from Glenwood for that special Whole Foods experience. The same mobs you’ll be fighting in the aisles and at the checkout counter.Now, remind me again why we want a Whole Foods. Oh, that’s right … for the improved quality of life.And suddenly that killer club is looking a lot like a slab of foam rubber.Whack me again, Mr. Developer. I need a good laugh.Andy Stone is a former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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