Roses and Thorns | AspenTimes.com

Roses and Thorns

Thorny roses go the Basalt Town Council for the agreement approved Tuesday night to end a stalemate with Willits Town Center over a proposed hotel and affordable-housing project.

The council deserves roses for deciding to put a 2 percent lodging tax on the ballot in November. If it’s approved, Mariner Real Estate Management will be able to tap the revenue raised by its 113-room hotel for the following 10 years to recoup expenses sunk into development. The developer and the town’s independent financial consultant agreed the project needs a subsidy to be economically feasible.

The council deserves thorns for agreeing that if the 2 percent lodging tax fails, Mariner gets $500,000 out of the town’s general fund in 2015. That’s going a little too far to accommodate the developer’s concerns. The 2 percent lodging tax ballot question shouldn’t have been tainted with the threat that taxpayers will have to provide the subsidy if hotel guests don’t.

And finally, more roses for the council for holding Mariner’s feet to the fire to complete affordable housing. Mariner won’t get any type of subsidy if it doesn’t start construction of a 50-unit affordable housing project by the time the hotel is completed in 2015.

A rose for Douglas “Merc” Mercatoris, who has successfully run the Mountain Dragon in Snowmass Village for 30 years. Sustaining a restaurant in this valley for three decades is no easy task, and Merc not only pulled it off but managed to run an establishment that made everyone feel welcome. The Dragon will be closing after this ski season, and we congratulate Merc on his retirement, but the restaurant will be sorely missed.

Thorn to whatever party is responsible for taking the “smart” out of the “smart light” at Highway 82 and Willits Lane/Two Rivers Road. The traffic signal used to be great at responding to demands in the turn lanes off of Highway 82 and the traffic on the side streets. Adjustments were made some years ago to give more preference during rush hours to through traffic on Highway 82. Nevertheless, the light remained somewhat responsive to traffic flow. It seems that since the software was installed for a signal prioritization for RFTA buses in the fall, the light has lost its smart capabilities to respond to traffic, at least during the busiest times of the afternoon. Traffic turning off of Highway 82 and crossing on Two Rivers Road or Willits Lane sits forever waiting for a green light, even when through traffic isn’t heavy on Highway 82.

Rose to midvalley resident Suzy Ellison for coming up with a clever nickname for Willits Town Center. The area is crawling with upscale masses and foodies of all socioeconomic status making faithful pilgrimages to Whole Foods. Although Willits is technically part of “West Basalt,” Ellison refers to the area as “El JeBoulder.”

Another rose for midvalley activist Bob Schultz for coming up with a name that reflects his concern for Willits Town Center becoming an untamed land-use planning challenge for Basalt and an economic beast that torments downtown Basalt. He has dubbed it “Frankenwillits.”


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