Letter: Stop the blame game
I urge voters not to lay blame for the Aspen Art Museum on any single individual. Torre appeared to be blaming Mick Ireland during one of the election forums, but in fact, Torre voted for the art museum too, as did fellow councilmembers Derek Johnson and Dwayne Romero. The only one to vote against it was Steve Skadron.
That vote, in August 2010, came on the advice of the City Attorney’s Office and the Community Development Department. The museum, if you’ll recall, was part of a legal settlement forced by the father-and-son development team of Andy and Nikkos Hecht. They had challenged City Council’s use of the resident-generated Aspen Area Community Plan in its land-use decisions. If the courts ultimately ruled for the Hechts, it could have significantly undermined growth controls and allowed a much larger, mixed-use building on the site.
For Mick and Torre and Dwayne and Derek, the choice wasn’t either (1) the art museum or (2) the Andy and Nikkos Hecht Commemorative Puppy Dog and Toddler Park. It was either the art museum or an appeals court case aimed at undermining growth controls and allowing bigger building. Given what they faced, I think the art museum was the right choice. Unfortunately, the truncated public-review process that came as part of the settlement has left a bad taste with many voters.
To then-Mayor Mick Ireland’s credit, he immediately began working to fix the problems behind the Hecht lawsuit. He started by proposing lower heights on the south side of the street in the two downtown commercial-zone districts. He wrote detailed memos making the case, and the City Council followed by downzoning the commercial core. Mick’s work helped undo much of the overly permissive “infill zoning” adopted in the early 2000s.
The art museum is a larger-than-life, thought-provoking building. And it’s fair to criticize its size, impact and appearance. It’s not fair to blame the elected officials who chose art over chain boutiques, offices and oversized penthouses.
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