Letter: More solutions needed for local economy
November 15, 2016
I am writing to you in response to the front-page article of The Aspen Times from Sunday, Nov. 6, "Aspen city government looks to help locally serving businesses."I appreciate the renewed interest in tackling what may be the most pressing and impacting issue facing all of us, resident and visitor alike.
While the problem is not new, the solutions mentioned aren't either. As a former councilman, I know that the city has looked long and hard at the loss of locally serving business. I would suggest that our attempts have been largely ineffectual and it is time to ramp up our efforts before we reach the point of no return.
There are many reasons that we should act now during the moratorium to install land-use amendments to help maintain our locally serving businesses. Affordability for local residents is just one of those vital reasons. Character and diversity, our brand, is a large part of our success and sustainability and another reason. I already hear visitor complaints that Aspen is a "Rodeo Drive" in the mountains, and that it is losing its funky mountain charm. We also need to support locals' opportunity. As landlords woo national and international business tenants and jack up the rents, fewer and fewer locals can compete to continue or start businesses.
In the article, the suggestions of "design based" and "second tier space" as solutions to this problem do not go far enough. We have tried these ideas only to see core space sit empty as pricing awaits an out-of-town tenant. While I do encourage advancing these methods, along with zoning, there is more that can be done.
There are communities that have confronted this same issue and have held back the tide of losing locally serving business. From Nantucket to Sonoma and Miami to San Francisco, cities are protecting their uniqueness and supporting their locals. It's time we do the same. Council and staff should look closely at these successes and make decisions that are good for all of Aspen, and not just the private interests of a few. We should employ the same array of tools and do everything we can to ensure community and economic access, opportunity and diversity.
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