Blumenthal: A tale of two exit strategies
Update on a few hot topics in our fair village…
Reliable sources are reporting that Related has accelerated its exit plan and is currently out in the marketplace seeking buyers to take the Snowmass Mall and Snowmass Center properties off their hands. Although many of us have anticipated for some time that Related would pack up and leave as soon as Base Village was completed, it now appears the mothership back in New York City has decided to implement their exit strategy much sooner than anticipated. With this news in hand, the motivation behind Related’s recent hard-line positions and sometimes disrespectful and arrogant attitude becomes clearer but less acceptable.
It appears that Related’s medium- to long-term plans to redevelop and upgrade the Mall and Center have been scuttled and replaced with a quick and dirty plan to sell off all their properties, including their remaining undeveloped Base Village parcels, to the highest bidder. This strategy is further evidenced by their statements and actions during the preliminary plan review proceedings currently underway at the Planning Commission and Town Council. Related is not committed to making any significant investment in the long-term success of our resort or to spending the dollars required to complete Base Village in a fashion that’s best for our community and resort center.
Additional evidence of Related’s near-term exit strategy is the recent downsizing of its local staff, which included the termination of at least one key executive as well as members of its hospitality division and other personnel — not the actions of a company with a long-term commitment to the success of our resort community.
Why should we care whether or not Related stays or goes? The answer is pretty simple. They’re asking for a lot of changes to their previously approved Base Village development rights, many of which are intended to enhance their short-term bottom line but not necessarily the long-term vibrancy and success of Base Village. They’re insisting we should trust them (heard that one before?) since they know what’s best for our resort. If they were planning to stick around for a while and invest in our long-term success, we might agree, but their short-term exit plans raise cautionary signals.
Based on Related’s short-term commitment, our town staff, Planning Commission and Town Council should take what they have to say with a grain of salt and not be mesmerized by their advice and grand promises. Make sure we extract from Related all that we need to ensure the success of Base Village after they’re long gone. We have no idea who may step into their shoes and certainly it would be unwise not to dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s” in order to ensure that the next guy who comes along has a clear roadmap and set of obligations to fulfill. No trust outside the written word.
Hopefully we’ve learned from our past mistakes and won’t be sucked in again by the glitzy promises of the 800-pound elephant in the room without fully protecting ourselves before Related quickly exits stage left.
In other news, there’s growing angst in our community arising from Chris Jacobson’s unwillingness to step down from his position on Town Council.
He’s been given the opportunity to voluntarily resign due to his well-documented bad behavior and the District Attorney’s filing of a felony criminal complaint. If found guilty of the felony charges, he’d be involuntarily removed from office. Based on the preponderance of evidence released to date and irrespective of whether or not he’s found guilty of a felony, many people feel his behavior was sufficiently egregious to warrant his immediate removal from office. Elected officials are rightfully held to the highest standards of trust, which he’s breached.
Having failed to apologize for his unacceptable behavior and after stonewalling the mayor’s request that he voluntarily resign, an involuntary recall process has commenced, and I have it on good authority that the required 242 recall petition signatures have already been obtained with additional signatures still being collected in case some of the signatures are invalidated by the Town Clerk.
For those standing on the sidelines awaiting a felony conviction and his automatic removal from office, don’t hold your breath. The most likely outcome is a court-approved negotiated plea deal that includes some form of rehabilitation and restitution for the damage he has allegedly caused, but no felony conviction.
As the recall movement gains momentum, there’s still an opportunity for Mr. Jacobson to short-circuit the pain and suffering this process will cause him and his family as well as the community. The smart and responsible move would be to walk away gracefully and tend to his personal issues and rehabilitation before the heat of a recall takes hold. His behavior and actions were egregious and certainly not what we should tolerate from any elected representative.
In the face of much community opposition, senior members of our town staff are still spending lots of time and tax dollars on plans for a very expensive, negatively impactful Brush Creek/Wood Road roundabout. A much better use of their time and tax dollars would be plans to mitigate the much more significant traffic issues at the Owl Creek/Brush Creek and Faraway/Brush Creek intersections.
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The Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would like to thank all the organizations and people who supported a job skills training camp in May.