Letter: Keep fighting the good fight
November 20, 2014
Keep fighting the good fight
OK neighbors, after attending the first presentation of the planned development of the new hotel (named "Base") to the Historical Preservation Committee that is proposed for the land where the Conoco gas station now sits, I have struggled with this proposal and its implications. Why should I care whether this project is hugely inappropriate for this site with its massive scale and height? Why would it bother me if it asks for forgiveness from our rules? Are these rules and zoning so sacred that they should compromise or eliminate the chance for a perceived benefit to the city?
Mark Hunt and his team of planners and architects have proposed an affordable 38-room hotel on a single city lot because he's been told that the town needs affordable lodging, and he might be able to skirt the existing rules if he provided this amenity. But here's a problem: His lot is not in the correct zone to make this happen. It's not in the "commercial core" zone, it's on "historic Main Street." And because of the scale of the project, it doesn't fit the lot. So he needs help from the city — big time. Let's see, first off, no setbacks (we need all our land for the building and because we're almost in the core, this should be no problem). Second, we need to go way taller and way wider than permitted (we know it's way too big, but our architect thinks it looks good this way — a flat roof would be ugly), and the city wants cheap rooms (and P.S., anything we build there will screw the neighbors anyway). Thirdly, there is no way we have any room for any parking, so we can't follow that rule, either.
So why do I care what they build? Because I live here and love here. Why did the good people of Aspen stand up and fight way back in the late '60s and '70s for "down zoning" before anyone ever heard of such things? Why did they rise up in arms after the Aspen Square and the Durrant Mall got built? Because they decided that if the town was to save what they loved about the place and be different from the big cities, they would have to fight to stem the tide of greed-heads and developers hell bent on making a profit off the natural beauty and existing historic town. The locals, led by vocal a Hunter S. Thompson and artist Tom Benton, rallied the people to elect councilmen and mayors and commissioners for 40-some years now who shared the passion to fight to hold back large-scale development and tall buildings from taking over way back when. Thank God they did fight. Look around now: Do the new locals have any idea the struggle and resolve it took to have Aspen look the way it does today? Every day Aspen residents have had to stand shoulder to shoulder with their elected officials to hold back the greed that sees the profit to be had if only they could just build more and more and taller and taller and bigger and bigger.
This proposed new project disguised as affordable lodging is nothing more than the same old crap, repackaged by the newest "new guy in town," dressed up as a project to help the town with its latest problem. But it doesn't help anything and it doesn't fix anything and it only makes matters worse. When did putting 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag ever help?
Fight the good fight, brothers.
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Mark P. Hesselschwerdt
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