Marolt: The critters are congregating in the woodpile | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: The critters are congregating in the woodpile

Roger Marolt
Roger This

Mark Hunt is a snake, a skunk and a weasel. No offense to animals. And, City Hall is the dense wood he lurks in. No offense to lumber.

To bring you up to speed, Hunt is the guy who would build two new hotels in town. He named them Base1 and Base2, appropriately likening them to the menacing Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2. We can’t get the messy nuisances out of our house.

Last month, the City Council approved his Base2 project while granting a Snowmass Base Village-load of variances under the wire, as if to slap the faces of voters who took its abused powers away with Referendum 1 in May.

The residents of Aspen reacted to the forced hand and gathered so many signatures that it was impossible for even this City Council to ignore its constituency’s desires. The politicians begrudgingly backed off and referred the approval to the voters to decide.

We all know what that meant, and so did Hunt. In a letter to City Council dated Aug. 19, he unequivocally withdrew his application for the doomed hotel. That should have been the end to this saga.

So, the very next Monday, who wouldn’t have been surprised to see Hunt in City Council chambers as the first agenda item? What was he doing there? He was rescinding his unequivocal withdrawal! Which City Council let him do! What?

On to political zoology 101; snake first. We all know who the oldest snake in The Book is. We also know deception was his tool of choice. Hunt appears not to have missed that chapter.

He’s not afraid of exaggeration. He told us he had a parking arrangement worked out with St. Regis hotel for his Base1 hotel guests. It turns out that isn’t exactly true; it’s barely roughly possible. Yes, there may have been a discussion, but the St. Regis hasn’t even filed an application to build the parking that Hunt said he had secured.

Neither is Hunt afraid of bluffing. He told us that there would be no Base1 hotel if Base2 hotel wasn’t going to be built. I guess he just forgot to withdraw the Base1 approval while he was dropping off the Base2 withdrawal.

Hunt also is great at twisting the meaning of his words. His letter to the city said, and I quote, “Please consider this letter our formal withdrawal and forfeiture of the associated approval.” Somehow, he convinced City Council that what he really meant was, “I’d like to keep going on this project.” They bought it, so we have to assume Hunt is the English language’s master, and City Council’s, too.

Now, let’s talk skunk. Something stinks here. How can the City Council allow a rescinded project to be un-rescinded? When Hunt quit his project in writing Aug. 19, that was the end of it. That is a unilateral decision on his part. The minute it was handed over to Sara Adams, senior planner, and Chris Bendon, community development director, that project was officially dead and their files should have been emptied into the trash. So, what gives that we’re now voting on it?

Also consider this crazy outcome: The people who didn’t want the hotel to begin with ended up having to gather 1,700 signatures to nix the council’s ill-advised approval of it and that effort got twisted into the rationale for the withdrawn project to go to a public vote in November. Get it? The opponent’s hard work, time and money ended up being used as the excuse to resurrect the dead project. That’s just wrong!

And don’t forget the weasel. You tell me how Hunt withdrew his application Aug. 19 and ended up speaking in front of City Council on Aug. 24 and walked out of there with his project healthier than Referendum 1.

Remember, Hunt had “formally” “withdrawn,” “vacated,” “abandoned” and “forfeited” his approval. He did this “after a good deal of thought.” He had consulted with his land planner, at least, and probably with his investors and other advisers, too. He did not withdraw his application on an emotional moment of weakness. What else then, strategy?

What changed the Hunt investment group’s apparently dead-set mind so quickly? Or, maybe we should ask who changed that group’s mind? It sounds like an inside job. Instead of doing their jobs, City Council, needing little convincing, voided Hunt’s withdrawal as if preordained. I don’t know how to track a weasel, but I think they are hiding in the tangled mess of a woodpile that is City Council. Bert Myrin appears to be the only stick that remains un-warped.

Roger Marolt hopes The Cat in the Hat can get Things 1 and 2 out of the house before Mother comes home. Email at roger@maroltllp.com


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