Lum: Sign the Base2 petition
There is some confusion about the petition that is currently circulating against Mark Hunt’s Base2 lodge, so I’ll take a whack at trying to explain it.
Base2 is the supposedly affordable, 37-room hotel that is proposed for the former Conner gas station at the corner of Monarch and Main. Base1 — 42 hotel rooms — has been approved already and will replace where Johnny McGuire’s used to be.
Aspen residents were upset that the Base1 project evaded the requirements for employee housing and parking — as well as several other variances that had been allowed by the City Council in recent history. There was a general feeling that development was running amok.
The people signed more than enough petitions to get a charter-amendment question on the November ballot that said no variances regarding height, size, employee housing or parking would be allowed without a public vote.
This question passed by 53 percent of the votes and is now the law of the land.
Meanwhile, a matter of days before the new law took effect, the Base2 proposal came before the council and was approved, 4-1 (with Mayor Steve Skadron voting against), although Hunt asked for more than two times the allowed floor area, did not meet set-back requirements and planned to put 15 parking spaces somewhere (to be determined) off-site.
This approval was tantamount to the council giving the public the finger and triggered the new petition that is circulating now (sign it at City Market from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily). If 621 registered city voters sign it by July 9, either the Base2 proposal will be put to a public vote or the council can rescind its approval.
This is the only recourse the public has to prevent the variances given to Base2 by the city. The council was under absolutely no obligation to grant those variances and just (spit in your eye) did it anyway.
At first I thought the council was afraid of being sued, when in fact it should be afraid of setting terrible precedents. God knows we can afford lawsuits — this is the town with the $500,000 outhouse, the town that can afford a huge new government building without asking for a tax increase and is presently ripping up Rubey Park with funds from its coffers.
It’s not the money. As best as I can understand it, the majority of the council thinks that these two hotels (Hunt has stated that he won’t build Base1 unless Base2 also is approved) are a good idea for the town. Many of us disagree.
Supposedly the rooms will be affordable — did we learn nothing from the Limelight Lodge experience? Hunt himself has said the rates will go up in high season, just as they do at every lodging establishment. People who come here in low seasons can find room bargains, and if they come in the high seasons they can’t. There are no restrictions on room rates for Hunt or whoever might buy the buildings down the road.
Then there’s the argument that we need more lodge rooms. Really? Was your head in the sand over the Food & Wine weekend? Can we really handle an increase in visitors, and is that what we want?
I think that the city staff and council are more enthused about Base1 and Base2 than the public is. I thought that the people had already spoken loud and clear on the subject when they passed the charter amendment forbidding variances.
The City Council seems not to be listening, so — sadly — we have to tell it again. If you’re a registered city voter, be sure to sign the Base2 petition. I have a copy — you can email me at the address below or go to City Market between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and write your name. Legibly, please.
Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks Hunt should go ahead and build a couple of small, high-end boutiques. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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