We are fools and sellouts
Hear, hear! Those were the closing words of Roger Marolt’s excellent column on Sept. 7 in The Aspen Times titled “Beware of developers bearing gifts for us.”
Roger has been a voice in the wilderness for much of the summer, opposing the LAM, or Lodge at Aspen Mountain, as it is known. His remarks, though clearly directed at this development in particular, are spot-on for any number of construction projects that get ready approval not just in town, but in the county as well.
From where I write, I look to the east toward Wildcat. There, all summer long, has been a towering crane building what I am told will be a 45,000-square-foot house. In the morning sun, the crane takes on the appearance of an extended middle figure declaring to all the world its, and the owners’, right to exploit.
To the west, on a previously pristine hillside, sits a 90-percent-finished spec house surrounded by a wide swath of denuded earth. The spec house has been there, naked on the hillside, for two years because an out-of-town developer didn’t do his homework.
As I drive to town over Watson Divide, I pass a “project” at the top of the hill that has been a construction zone for more than four years. Daily, there are a dozen and more trucks and cars parked there, and one recent morning I counted 37 vehicles in the drive.
Turning right on the highway, I attempt to merge between a myriad of pickup trucks and dump trucks that are loaded to the top, and higher, with stone, asphalt and dirt, adding tons to their gross weight as they spew diesel into the air with each touch of the accelerator. To the left are the already completed 10,000-square-foot-plus ranchettes above the Roaring Fork adjacent to the huge excavations where others will be constructed, along with tennis courts, swimming pools and assorted duck ponds.
Once I get to town, there is another sight to behold, the construction at the top of Red Mountain that will be “toned down” with muted colors, according to the architect. I was interested to read that the project requires something like 300 truckloads of fill dirt to accommodate the casa and make up for what nature has not provided.
The fact is, as Roger stated, we are fools and sellouts. The rules in place that allow these people to do whatever they want with no regard ” no, worse, with complete disregard ” for their neighbors or this valley, have been put in place by our leaders who have been approved by us.
Ask these people why they think they can just bulldoze the valley and invariably two arguments will pop up. The first is “it is our constitutional, God-given right to do what we want with our land.” The second, usually delivered with a smile, is “look what we have done for your property values.”
This self-righteous, condescending attitude extends to the “graciousness” that our greedhead neighbors bring to the community. They are happy to sup and dance under the moon for a good cause, like a place to hang art in town, or a new dance facility. And they are happy to take full-page ads in this paper (which, like George Bush, who refuses to read The New York Times, I’m sure they rarely read) to tout their generosity.
There are people who will read this and suggest that I am fomenting a class war with my comments. If the people who are destroying this valley had the class to stop, look and listen to this place, they would not do the things they do. They are correct in saying that they have a right to develop. The laws are on their side. But to abuse that right, should, in my opinion, disqualify them from having the ability to exploit their land.
By abusing the right I mean things as simple as building non-permitted roads, or lying about the value of their construction costs in order to cheat us, the citizens of this county, out of impact fees.
The first thing that should be done in this county is to hugely raise the mitigation fees imposed on construction. Charge 10 percent of the estimated cost of the home as fee for the 300 or more trucks required to position the 14,000-square-foot home so that the pilots’ hot tub is in line with the Maroon Bells. And then use that money to hire a bevy of inspectors who will enforce the laws we already have on the books.
As Paul E. Anna, I am supposed to find a bright side to every story. In Greece, the summer skies this year were filled with smoke from fires that had been set intentionally. It was rumored among the populace that the origin of these fires were developers who, running out of land to exploit, needed to clear more.
The bright side? Our developers are not arsonists.