Letter: Blaming the messenger to obscure the real public interest

It’s no surprise that the same type of person who says climate change does not exist because Al Gore has too many big houses also would say that there is no issue with the Base2 Lodge (ballot issue 2A) because former Aspen councilman and community activist Frank Peters used to own part of the Sardy House and Hotel Lenado, and then he and his partners ultimately sold those properties. (That same kind of person would also fail to disclose that Peters was a longtime Aspen City Council member, a lifelong advocate for affordable housing, and, most recently, a volunteer on a team in Liberia fighting the Ebola outbreak.)

The vilify-the-messenger and ignore-the-issues approach most recently expressed by Scott Rider (The Aspen Times, Oct. 26, “The Aspen old folks home,” Commentary) will rally most Aspenites and others who still care about the future of Aspen. But there’s still a larger piece at play here. That’s the effort to displace responsibility from the government, namely: City Council, which has known for a long time that there are critical problems with the land-use code and has not dealt with those issues in a timely manner; the Community Development Department, which continues to exercise unfettered discretion and more or less superpowers regarding “planned developments;” and City Council’s own failed quasi-judicial decision making for so many projects, now or about to be the tale of Aspen’s failed streetscape.

Incredibly, Aspen’s current director of the Community Development Department is now on Facebook championing Rider’s attack on former Aspen Councilman Peters: “About time! Those that complain about Aspen selling out should take a closer look at the sellers,” Community Development Director Chris Bendon wrote.


Voters, take a closer look. Instead of accepting responsibility for what the council and the Community Development Department has, and in the case of Base2, flat-out facilitated, the government now seeks to transfer responsibility to property owners and developers as if it was their fault that they bought or sold property based on what the city’s land-use codes allow.

Voters, don’t be fooled: It is the responsibility of city government — council and staffers — to advance the public interest. That is their job, and you should never blame developers or other property owners for trying to maximize their development potential. Rather, you should pay attention to what the City Council and staff actually did.

First, the city met with the Base2 developer in private and asked him to develop lodging on a tiny 6,000-square-foot lot that would require huge variances beyond what zoning allows.

Second, the Community Development Director allowed Base2 to proceed as a “planned development,” which was the only way the desired development could be approved absent a publicly-processed rezoning.

Third, through an expedited review process, the City Council approved development on this tiny, 6,000-square-foot lot located outside of the commercial core for zero lot lines and also three times the density allowed. No meaningful affordable housing or parking was required.

Please vote “no” on 2A.

Marcella Larsen