Editorial: Let voters decide on lodging ordinance | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Let voters decide on lodging ordinance

Referendum petitions can be a tricky thing. After all, we elect our leaders to make decisions on the community’s behalf, and we’re not always going to universally agree with the choices they make and the legislation they approve.

On Wednesday, a referendum petition began circulating throughout Aspen. The upshot: Organizers of the petition drive are seeking to rescind the new lodge-incentive package, passed 3-2 by the Aspen City Council on Aug. 11. If petitioners gather, by Sept. 5, the required 10 percent of Aspen residents who were registered to vote in the last municipal election, they can put the issue before voters in the November election.

We’re asking qualified Aspen residents to sign the petition and let the voters decide. In an editorial last week, we presented our two chief reasons why we oppose this 91-page ordinance:

• It will allow developers to propose four-story lodges south of Durant Avenue, toward Aspen Mountain.

• It reduces affordable-housing requirements for lodge developers. For example, with the new program, an eligible 11-unit lodge requires 1.75 full-time-equivalent employees, essentially half the previous requirement.

Is this truly what the people of Aspen want? Bigger hotels and less affordable housing?

Granted, our City Council traditionally is composed of officials who were elected to do the job, and we must live with their decisions.

But not in this case.

Flash back to July 2013, when the Aspen City Council was deadlocked, 2-2, on selecting either retired banker Howie Mallory or Dwayne Romero, the two finalists to fill the vacant Aspen City Council seat left by Steve Skadron, who had to relinquish his council seat after he won the June 2013 mayoral runoff.

Both Skadron and newly elected Councilwoman Ann Mullins supported Mallory, known to be an advocate of slow-growth control. Skadron and Mullins, incidentally, voted against the new lodge ordinance.

Meanwhile, Councilman Adam Frisch and newly elected council member Art Daily picked Romero to fill the seat.

In the end of the appointment process, Skadron reversed and went with Romero, as did Mullins, in order to avoid a dice roll to select the new council member.

And that July 2013 appointment of Romero essentially tipped the scales of the Aspen City Council in the favor of development. See last week’s approval of the lodge-incentive ordinance for further proof: Daily, Frisch and Romero voted for its approval.

We’re confident that the new lodge-incentive ordinance does not reflect the will of Aspen’s residents. It most certainly reflects the will of those who want bigger hotels and less affordable housing, however.

The lodge-incentive ordinance needs to go to the Aspen voters. Hats off to the petition organizers who are pushing to make this happen.