Marolt: If you have no use for a jeep is it really worth anything to you?
My first car was a jeep. It wasn’t a Jeep jeep. It was a Willys jeep, the kind of rough-riding general purpose vehicle the Army used long before the other kind was manufactured by the American Motor Co. for good-looking people in LL Bean flannel shirts, down vests, bell-bottom jeans, and clod-hopper hiking boots. That same company also brought us the Gremlin, Matador, Hornet and Pacer, so if anyone was disappointed with the quality of their civilian Jeep, I’d say they were asking for it.
My Willys wasn’t much better, though it certainly had been when it rolled off the assembly line 30 years before my sister handed it down to me. It didn’t have a roof, which was a drag when it rained, but that didn’t matter in the winter because the heater didn’t work. The pneumatic windshield wipers eked out a swipe across the glass about once a minute. There were no turn signals. You proved you were low on fuel by pulling over, breaking a branch off a tree and dipping it into the tank under the driver’s seat to confirm your suspicions. Their wasn’t a hand-size area of paint that wasn’t dented, scratched or rusted.
Needless to say, it was a surprise one day when a stranger was admiring my jeep parked in town. He told me he’d give me $500 for it.
As human beings do, I turned the good fortune of having options into a stressfully agonizing decision. Couldn’t I just have both?
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My father was a practical man and he had little patience for me worrying about a deal for which he didn’t see any downside either way. To him, it seemed an opportunity for growth and he hoped I could think my way through the dilemma and come to a satisfying conclusion on my own.
When that continued to not happen and his patience had worn as thin as the tire tread on my Willys, he took me aside.
“Look,” he said in exasperation. “If someone else had that jeep, would you give them $500 for it?”
“No way,” I said confidently.
“There’s your answer then,” he said.
My expression was as blank as the Jeep’s voltage meter.
“You just told me 500 bucks is worth more to you than that jeep.”
And so it is today, the Town of Snowmass Village finds itself the owner of commercial space in the new and partially improved Base Village. Some say the property is worth $5 million dollars. Others claim it could be worth as much as $8 million. An appraiser can tell us what the true value is. But, what nobody can tell us is what the heck to do with the property.
The dinosaur bone folks were first in line to outfit the space as a discovery center for displaying fossils and educational information that is just as well suited for roadside points of interest. When they recently threw in the financial towel that would have been used to wipe up red ink, we discovered that there was nobody in line behind them with anything that resembled a good idea of how to use the space for anything but collecting dust.
It is time for Town Council to stop agonizing over what to do with this retail space. Voters: Would we otherwise authorize Town Council to raise our property taxes in order to purchase $6 million worth of commercial space in Base Village with nothing in mind to use it for? If not, let’s sell it.
The truth is that municipal governments don’t often own prime real estate in the retail cores of the towns they govern because they don’t have any need for it, much less a good idea of how to utilize it effectively for anything.
The most intelligent thing our government could do with that empty retail space in a decade-old comatose project that was supposed to revitalize our town is sell it to someone who will use it for a new store or restaurant that would help in that regard. The fact that our government can’t figure out what to do with this retail space that it owns is proof enough that they shouldn’t own it to begin with.
Roger Marolt thinks the Town’s retail space should be used to sell alpine coaster t-shirts and tickets to the free Thursday night concerts. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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