Lum: The ballots are out
October 15, 2015
The ballots are in the mail and the proponents of Base2 are rolling out their heavy artillery with full page ads, a slick website and a video of testimonials (Rabbi Mintz!).
I hope that the voters are not forgetting what we were upset about in the first place. We were pissed off because the City Council kept giving various variances to various projects, the last straw being the variances given to Base1 on parking and housing.
This triggered the referendum petition, which then triggered the voter approval of an amendment to the home rule charter so that now any variances in height, bulk, parking or housing must be approved by the voters.
Just before that amendment took effect, the City Council gave the finger to the electorate by approving Base2 with variances for bulk, parking and housing. So out came the petitions again, forcing the city to put Base2 to the vote we now face.
I remind you of this because the proponents of Base2 would like you to believe that this vote is a choice between hotel rooms and commercial space. It is even hinted that the space might be used for another pharmacy or another bank — now that would be funny.
This vote isn't about hotel rooms, affordable (they aren't) or otherwise. This vote isn't about commercial versus lodging or about little bitty rooms versus roomy rooms. This vote isn't about parking.
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This vote is about variances, which the public has indicated it thinks are being handed out way too freely. Citizens have said — I thought loud and clear — that the council went too far with their variances for Base1 and then went way too far with the variances for Base2.
Rather than debate the merits of Base2 — though so tempting to do, and I am guilty of doing it — we should look on question 2A as the first indication to the development world (champing at our doorstep) that we're actually serious in our determination to put a stop to variances. Or not.
This is a huge issue for developer Mark Hunt, who possibly should have chosen a more tractable community to invest in. He has invested millions in city properties, and how the public reacts to Base2 will impact his plans for all of his other properties.
We haven't heard much about Base1 lately, have we? Originally, Hunt made the statement that if Base2 failed at the polls, he would withdraw his application for Base1.
Silence on the subject causes me to suspect that he has changed his mind.
Applying and withdrawing has become a way of life for Base1 and Base2, so don't put much stock in the new promise to provide underground parking — this one isn't even in writing.
And if it were in writing, you know what that means: zip.
In a sinister move, Hunt has suggested that Councilman Bert Myrin be recused from discussing or voting on any of his future projects because Myrin said he didn't trust him (Hunt).
Prestidigitation is the name of this game — now you see it, now you don't. The players are dead serious and Aspen may be the corpse.
If the public bends over for Base2, there are a dozen or so more applications coming up from Hunt (including the Red Onion), the Jerome has some frightening ideas about the old Aspen Times building and who knows what Stan Clausen has up his sleeve. They are all waiting to see how this shakes out — ready to pounce.
Can Aspen elections be bought? I don't think so. We shall soon see.
I haven't gotten my ballot yet, but I know I'm voting "no" on Base2 and voting to keep City Hall for government offices.
Su Lum is a longtime local who does trust the voters. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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