Guest commentary: Aspen council candidate wants to restore balance of community and resort
During the 40 years I’ve lived here, I have seen Aspen change from a town to a city and witnessed the balance between community and resort shift to favor resort and residential investment uses.
We are a unique resort for several reasons: our distance from Denver, the wise foresight of those who came before and enacted thoughtful zoning laws, but mostly, we have a community, and a great part of our workforce, living right in town.
I feel my broad range of work experience gives me greater understanding of working in the valley. My first job here, in the summer of 1980, was clearing ski trails at Aspen Highlands. I’ve built skis for Phoenix skis, worked 10 years in the restaurant industry, driven snowcats for the Aspen Mountain powder tours, worked in the Aspen Skiing Co.’s on-mountain recycling program, as well as worked in construction and property management.
I am passionate about skiing. It’s a very large part of what kept me here. It’s also led me to ski in many other places: all across the American West as well as many places in both Canada and Europe. What we have in Aspen is unique, and it needs to be protected.
I’d like to see Aspen follow the Aspen Area Community Plan more closely. The AACP plans since 1993 are a community call to manage growth, protect open space, require private sector growth to mitigate for some of it’s impacts and keep locally serving businesses in place. By preserving Aspen’s small-town character and scale, we will both prosper and remain a livable community.
Employee housing is not only necessary, it’s something we can act on quickly; we have the RETT funds available (after last summer’s record breaking real estate frenzy) to actually get something done. Beyond the completion of housing at the lumberyard, we should be looking at locations on the city side of the roundabout for solutions.
I’ve proposed examining the North Mill Commercial Center near Clark’s as a permanent home for locally serving businesses and pedestrian oriented employee housing. We also could look at converting the city-owned recycling center to affordable housing as curbside pick up of recyclables becomes universal.
I’d like to point out something I already was aware of but was reaffirmed as I knocked on doors during this campaign, and it’s this: the vast majority of the “older folks” living in employee housing are still part of our workforce and, obviously, active members of our community. They deserve our respect.
Our entire economy is tied to the environment. It’s why we live here, it’s why other people visit and buy second homes here. Aspen must continue to lead in the climate change arena. Unlimited growth and exporting our workforce downvalley are just two things we need to come to grips with.
In spite of our recent snows, more than 50% of the American west is in drought conditions and 100% of Colorado. Clearly, more must be done. With the largest wildfires in Colorado history occurring last summer, choking our skies with smoke, I think we can all agree, our firefighting budgets will need some attention.
The VRBO problem should be looked into. Essentially, 1,000 hotel rooms that don’t pay their fair share of taxes (25% of what our local small lodges pay!), don’t provide parking, don’t provide housing for their employees, etc. It is not a level playing field and it hurts local businesses.
I ask for your vote to restore the balance of community and resort, to keep Aspen a year-round, vibrant community of local residents, not just another haven for luxury residential investments and vacation homes.
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times has offered each candidate a guest column of 600 words or less. There are eight candidates running for two open seats on the Aspen City Council. The municipal election is March 2; ballots have been mailed.