Letter: You can beat City Hall

As organizers of the petition drive to force a vote on the now-rescinded lodging ordinance, we wanted to thank everyone who volunteered their time and energy to this effort as well as the community-at-large for its support.

Many of the people circulating petitions in town told us it was the first time they became directly involved in Aspen’s sometimes contentious political process. We thank them for their courage and the care they have for the community and its long-term prospects.

We collected more than 801 signatures in just five days!

One interesting thing we noticed was that many, many longtime visitors to Aspen also wanted to sign the petition because they understood the threat that the development incentives presented to the charm of Aspen.

There were so many reasons to oppose this legislation:

• 60-plus foot buildings along the base of Aspen Mountain;

• Privatized parking on the streets around lodges, for guests and penthouse owners, plus $1/week passes for guests to park on our streets;

• A 50 percent reduction in affordable-housing mitigation requirements, even though lodges are labor-intensive businesses;

• Waiver of building and zoning related fees that are required of every other person with a project in town;

• A provision that allows developers to convert their projects to private condominiums within 10 years without having to pay back the incentives meant to add lodging in town.

Unfortunately, even though City Council has rescinded the ordinance, it’s unlikely this conversation is over. Some of the worst aspects of the ordinance may reappear individually, instead of in one package, in the months to come. We need to let our elected officials know that they should not adopt the lodge-incentive program piecemeal, as happened a decade ago with the infill program that is now radically transforming downtown Aspen.

But in the meantime, we would like to celebrate the efforts of all the concerned residents out there who circulated and signed the petitions that convinced City Council to step back from a potentially damaging land-use policy. Thanks, everyone.

Cavanaugh O’Leary and Bert Myrin