Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It appears to this writer that the independent, spirited and intelligent nature of dissent in Aspen has become an anachronism, with diabolical consequences. Where are the contentious and objecting “letters to the editor” regarding development on the Lift 1A side of town? From most of the public comments put forth at council meetings (seemingly in support of massive development), it would appear we’ve become a collective citizenry reminiscent of the “Stepford Wives.”
Conjecture has often compelled me to say that one could start giving out $100 bills at the Hickory House, and by the time you’d reached the Hotel Jerome, there would be at least two citizen groups against you, armed with petitions and lawyers to halt such aberrant behavior.
I have a great amount of respect for those who volunteered to serve on the COWOP task force, and this column is not particularly addressed to them. What seems entirely strange is that so few people have taken issue with the task force, and because of this, we appear to give the odious appearance of a town willing to roll over for developers.
Maybe it’s because so few of our full-time working citizens and business owners actually live within Aspen proper anymore. If you live in an Aspen suburb, it’s difficult to comprehend the major assault being perpetrated on our community. As non-citizen business owners, it’s easy to not particularly care about anything more in Aspen than the amount of dollars your business might generate.
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If you don’t believe it’s serious, think about this: Friends who live in the vicinity of the Limelight rebuild have seen their side of town and home life turned into a nightmare. There is deafening, nonstop construction noise from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week; on-street parking has disappeared; there are construction workers and portable toilets everywhere. Don’t get them started on the views they lost when the penthouses went up. They suggest that the immediate neighbors of the proposed Lift One development, those who support the project, have no idea what they are in for. Either that or their only interest is in increasing their property values, something for which they may not live long enough.
Some themes are starting to develop through public discussions, thought patterns that seem to belie the independent nature of local folks. Some say that if 27 citizens went through the process of coming up with this scheme, then it must be “the one.” Or how about, “We know Sarpa and the other developers, have established a modicum of communication with them, and it would be foolhardy to turn them down and try to strike, at some future point, a deal with new and different developers.” The City Council, whether it knows it or not, still has the final say, although it too seems to be getting caught up in the defeatist attitude of “let’s make the best of the existing situation.”
How many committees do we need to make us feel comfortable? Between the COWOP task force and the City Council, that’s two. Even as a young, unsophisticated kid growing up here, it was common knowledge that an awkward camel is nothing but a sleek racehorse designed by a committee. And there’s always the old adage about being unable to see the forest for the trees.
If the city of Aspen truly values the Lift 1A side of town, they ought to take a lead from Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and buy the property. Then, pick up the trash, haul away the crap that’s piled up over the years, plant some tall trees and friendly grass that kids, adults and dogs can play on, and call it good. That would actually be gaining some tangible community benefit from the area, and we wouldn’t have to compromise our integrity to get it done.
Build the ski museum at the base of old Lift One, and encourage the Aspen Historical Society to inculcate our children with the idea that skiing, not development, is good for the soul.
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