Letter: Variances spoil Aspen character | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Variances spoil Aspen character

Aspen Chamber Resort Association has weighed in on trying to defeat Referendum 1. Referendum 1 would prevent the City Council from continuing to grant special-favor commercial variances in the Aspen core without a vote of the residents. More than 1,000 residents signed the petition supporting the referendum, probably many members of the chamber.

Aspen Chamber Resort Association is funded by the city of Aspen to the tune of more than $2 million a year. It is illegal for the city of Aspen itself to lobby against a referendum. Semi-autonomous organizations that receive city funds should not use some loophole to serve as the city’s mouthpiece. Shame on the chamber.

And the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s arguments are bogus. Here’s why:

First, under Referendum 1, no developer could put his variance requests on a ballot; only the City Council could do that. City Council could deny the variance requests and deny the developer’s request for a public vote. In other words, the council remains in control.

If the City Council decides to put the requests on a ballot, only the council can decide whether the vote would be a general election or a special election. The developer could not decide that.

Second, sure, a developer could mount a public-relations campaign in favor of its variance requests, but there are spending limits under Aspen’s campaign-finance laws. Opponents of the requests would have an equal opportunity to publicize their opposition to the variances.

Further, money doesn’t buy elections in Aspen. Our residents are intelligent; they vote the issues. The chamber’s argument insults us as residents.

Support the people’s referendum, Referendum 1, and end the special-favor commercial variances that are spoiling our city’s character.

Maurice Emmer


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