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Scott: How better to save Aspen

Andrew Scott
Guest Column
Andrew Scott
Andrew Scott

The latest from the “Living Lab,” also known as the city of Aspen’s “Ready, Fire, Aim” Project, is that it turns out this test configuration with bike lanes going this way and that; the 50-plus removed parking spaces turned into horizontal parking spots —with car doors opening onto said bike lanes — that they “temporarily” installed at taxpayer expense; makes snow plowing impossible.

Looks like this was designed by a blind, drunk speed skater. “Oops.” So, more tax dollars can be spent in this inflated market as the experiment continues: “Let’s just paint some more lines here, put another stop sign here. Maybe we’ll remove them, maybe not.” 

Was this an idea from another of the private, non-local contractors, consultants or communication firms hired with money that could instead have been spent building local housing on open space the city already owns? We spent how many millions on a new roundabout in the middle of summer, making traffic worse, only to be left with a scarred new surface and no new lanes? 



Phillip Supino was quoted in the newspaper as saying, in regard to the school district investing in Mark Hunt’s real-estate endeavors with the city’s approval: “We’d like to magically create seven affordable-housing units out of one existing affordable-housing unit.”

What the city and district are really doing is subsidizing a real-estate developer and monopolist who they should probably rather be penalizing for shuttering so many local businesses and addresses for so many years, at great expense to the city in lost tax revenue. He presides over the Concrete Palace, The Bidwell Hole in the Ground and the Mainstreet Box of Unbaked Plywood. Apparently, some of Hunt’s backers are unidentified, unknown investors who, bafflingly, no local investigative journalist can identify. 




The city just waved this “New Deal” through with less than 30 minutes of deliberation. Could they not have spent some time deliberating, if only to conclude they must insist on knowing who they were going into business with?  

In 2018, affordable-housing credits were worth about $330,000 to developers. What is the value now? Giving Mark Hunt seven of these while he keeps ownership of the building with a guarantee to sell or lease to the school district? At what price? And, do they pay for the improvements?

This sure looks like a good deal for Hunt. No new housing created, seven units removed from the free long-term rental market, none added to APCHA inventory — but, instead, the school district competes with them both. And, when we should be getting a market correction, the municipality inflates it with multiple taxpayer-funded entities competing with each other and real-estate speculators and mega landlords and so many unlocal businesses driving the prices up, up and away, and ever further out of reach of the employees who now can’t change jobs without losing their housing. 

How does this serve anyone but existing landowners, Realtors and employers who get to take back part of their pay to their employees in rent from them? 

How about paying teachers and workers more instead of buying million dollar one-bedroom apartments to rent to indentured workers and turning yourselves into school districts, police and fire departments, with real-estate portfolios to manage which take ever more employees to maintain, competing with the local housing authority and free market?

The city and APCHA should take all that money and buy the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable prefabricated homes that are economically feasible, maybe some duplexes, and put them near the existing Marolt housing complex. They should connect them to town across a new bridge, a back road to the hospital that improves emergency access and adds another entrance to Aspen.

Let the Lumberyard stay a lumberyard — it’s worth much more to the city as what it already is. We don’t value having a building supply store in this municipality? Removing it is asking for yet more traffic forever. 

Put some of those fabulous prefabs on some of that 5,000 acres of open space, along the highway corridor preferably, and let’s get on with making this a better community.

Ban luxury chain stores in town, don’t expand the runway or make the terminal bigger, maybe do some research on rent control, and let’s start saving our Aspen if you really want to be interventionists about it. 

Rev. Andrew Scott, MDIV, is the founder of the Open Mind Project and tries to keep a small, local radio station afloat in his spare time. He can be reached at andrew@openmindproject.com


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